“How you respond to seasons of stress reveals your most firmly held beliefs”
When we are squeezed, what comes out? The outbursts, the anger, the aggression, the fear, and the frustration we have seen in our society lately is simply each person’s worldview being squeezed out. If you have been paying attention to the news or on social media, you have probably been triggered yourself. Have you felt yourself becoming more sensitive? Have you felt yourself getting defensive quickly? Or are you keeping your head down to avoid all the emotions that seem to be flowing around you?
This is what happens when our worldview is threatened. When what we hold most dear, most valuable is challenged. When the structures through which we see and live our lives doesn’t seem to be as stable and secure as we once thought. The world may seem upside down, but as Christians, we know who holds the world. We don’t need to run and hide; we can even find peace and joy in His presence.
As believers, we are called to be “in the world, but not of the world” (John 17:13-26). Jesus prayed these words for His followers, for both then and now. In the midst of big emotions all around us, do our hopes and dreams align with Jesus’ purpose for His Church? Or are we so wrapped up in our own comforts, our own goals, our own expectations that we have lost sight of what the heart of God is all about?
How can we look at the clashes going on in the world right now and have compassion? Compassion for those who have lost loved ones. Compassion for those whose livelihoods have been blocked. Compassion for those who have put our hopes and dreams in systems made merely with human hands. It is even more important today, to make sure you are responding to the stresses in your life with a biblical worldview. Let’s remember that we all have a worldview that has been shaped by our own life experiences and beliefs. And none of our worldviews are perfectly formed. We are responding to things out of the framework of our worldview, for better or worse. In humility, we need to check the depths of our own personal worldview against God’s Word.
Having a correct biblical worldview means having correct priorities and values for how you live your life. It doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing amidst today’s challenges. It means that we each need to take a deep, hard look at our motivations and actively seek to root-out the things in our lives that are keeping our focus away from God’s purposes for His Church and for us as believers.
To assess our worldview against the Bible, here are a few questions to ask ourselves:
- What are God’s eternal, never-changing, purposes?
- Why did God send Jesus to earth?
- What is the role of the Church on earth and you as a part of it?
- What has God called you to be obedient in?
Next, let’s peel back our own values and beliefs to get to a biblical worldview that will help us have compassion for others. As you look at those around you, who seem to generate that outburst of emotion and anger, remember Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:3-5: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” What is that plank in your eye? What are you focusing on? If it isn’t God’s eternal, never-changing, purpose, then whose purpose is it? Whatever we are valuing above God’s glory and sharing Christ, is an idol.
Three planks, three idols we are ignoring in the stress of today’s world to consider:
- Your freedoms and rights. Over the last 18 months, we have lost the ability to make our own decisions about some areas our daily lives. We have been told what to do by people in authority over us. But who is really in control of your life, your health, your finances, your eternal outcomes? We try to convince ourselves that we are in control over those things and so, when things do not go as we planned, we get angry, lash out, and try to get things back “under control.” If we find ourselves pushing back because of “rights” and “freedoms,” look at Jesus’ heart posture: He came as a humble baby, He served the least, He did not fight for His own way, He spoke Truth for love not for power, and ultimately, He died on the cross for you and me and the whole world, even though many would mock and reject Him. If you find yourself getting angry about being under someone’s thumb then you might prize your own freedoms over becoming a “slave to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 7:22)
- Your health. Over the last 18 months, more people have been confronted with their own mortality in a way we haven’t seen in generations. 100 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to have a mother die in childbirth, a child to not make it to his 5th birthday, and the average life expectancy was only 60 years old. With the all the advancements of modern medicine, there are still things that stump doctors and scientists. We are, for the first time in our generation, realizing that life is more fragile than we liked to believe. We expect that we can control our health, doctors can fix us, and we want to be back in control of our own life, health, and destiny! If you find yourself getting angry about other’s choices impacting your potential health, then you might prize your own health and life over Christ’s command to “lay down your life for a friend.” (John 15:13)
- Your ease and comfort. Over the last 18 months, we have seen a real loss of our old normal and a deep feeling of hopelessness seems to be growing under the surface. Suicide rates are up, anxiety and depression are on the rise. Mental health hospitals are turning people away and counselors are in high demand. We long for easy and simple again. But did Jesus come so we could live an easy, comfortable life? For a life that was “simple” or “safe?” If you find yourself constantly saying or thinking, “I just want things to go back to normal,” or always worrying about what might be next, then you might value your own comfort and ease more than Christ’s command that we must “carry our cross,” and “lose the world to gain Christ.” (Matthew 16:24-26)
These are just a few of the common idols we see people struggling with today. I struggle with them, too. I don’t want my rights to make my own decisions thwarted. I forget that I, too, am mortal and have an expiration date. I can find myself getting anxious about the future and yearning for “normal.” Sometimes I just want to bury my head in the sand and pretend like nothing has changed. But our children are watching. They see our stress levels, our anger, our frustrations. They are internalizing what we are valuing more than Christ. And when we, as their parents and guardians of their entire lives, are stressed and anxious, that trickles down to those little ones watching. If you find yourself trying to control every little thing, getting overly anxious and angry about your circumstances, then you might prize being in a place of power or control over being a servant to Christ.
As Christians, we are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Matthew 22:37). What are you loving more than Christ? Do the people around you know what you love most? Is glorifying God and sharing the Gospel with the lost your highest priority? Or is it your own comfort? Your own health? Your own rights? Or your desire to know what is coming next?
God is sovereign. Throughout history, God has used persecution, plagues, discrimination, death, and oppression to further His purposes of reaching every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 7:9). As followers of Jesus, it is good and right for us to fight for the oppressed, heal disease, lift up the downcast, and root out injustice in our world, but ultimately, as Christians, we must fall back on and rest in the sovereignty of God (Romans 8:27-28). We must trust that what He is allowing or doing is for His glory and the spread of the Gospel. It is a joy and a blessing that we can join Him and pray for His eternal purposes here on earth and experience the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:4-7).
So whatever speck you are seeing in your brother’s eye, whatever plank he sees in yours, I challenge you to make sure you are fighting for God’s purposes, seeking to speak His Truth, and growing in love for Him and your fellow man. Ultimately, joining Him in His eternal purposes is the only certain thing, the only thing we can be assured of because we know that Jesus is victorious; He has already conquered death and is preparing a place for us with Him in Heaven!