13 May 2024

It's OK not to be OK

Jim Burns

An image of two silhouette faces looking at each other

Jim Burns encourages us not to be ashamed about anxiety.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? A worrier? That’s me! Anxious? Yes, sometimes.

In the UK more than 8 million people are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time, so you might be one of them or know someone who is. Philippians 4:5 and 6 tell us: ‘The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything.’ But perhaps you’ve read this many times before and feel that it doesn’t work, or still experience anxiety.

In Psalm 6, we find these words: ‘I am worn out with grief; every night my bed is damp from my weeping; my pillow is soaked with tears’ (vv6 and 7 Good News Bible). Thank God that the Bible is full of such honest laments – particularly in the Psalms, when David and others complain to God about their lot. God is not offended by that: he wants us to be honest with him.

Whenever I’ve read the parable of the lost sheep, I’ve thought of it applying to someone else, perhaps someone who was no longer a believer. But what if that parable is about me? What if I’m feeling lost, either because of various life concerns or because I have strayed away from God’s way?

Are you really a lost child? No, for God knows exactly where you are and what you’re going through. He’s with you, even if, at your lowest, it seems otherwise.

In The Day Is Yours, Ian Stackhouse writes about a friend who, during a bout of depression, applied the discipline of living one day at a time:

‘He would wake up each morning and ask Jesus if we can do today – ‘we’ being the operative word – and then, having received some kind of affirmation from the Lord that indeed it was possible to do today, proceeded to live that day. Then the next day he would do exactly the same thing, and then the next day, and the next day. As he describes it, it was a one-day contract.’

In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask him to ‘give us this day our daily bread’. And, in Deuteronomy 8:3, we are instructed that we must not live on bread alone but on everything that the Lord says. Matthew 28:20 reminds us that Jesus said, ‘Surely I am with you always.’ That means we can cry out to him if we’re attacked by anxiety.

If we break a bone or have physical problems, as Christians we don’t feel guilt. Similarly, there is no need to feel that way when we suffer from anxiety or depression, or when we must take medication or engage in talking therapies.

In her book Glorious Weakness, Alia Joy writes: ‘There are so many among us who hurt, and we may never know we’re sitting next to someone barely holding all the pieces together when we gather together on a Sunday to sing rickety hymns and hear God’s word cracked open for us.’

Perhaps we need to be honest and share our anxiety with a trusted friend, hopefully someone within our corps. After all, if we can’t be honest there, where can we be? If someone does confide in you, may you be willing to support them in their journey.

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A photo of Jim Burns

Jim Burns


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