"Do not worry." Those were three words I was often told as a child. The other four words were, "It will be okay"...with a little bit of exasperation added in.
I was a child given to bouts of worry and anxiety often. In fact, I don't think my parents quite knew what to do with it. As I grew, the worry and anxiety didn't go away - the types of things I worried about simply grew with me into adulthood.
It wasn't until I had kids, lost both of my parents, and experienced a few other major life changes that I realized the amount of worry and anxiety that my little insides tried to manage wasn't really normal. Furthermore, the crisis or major life changes I experienced threatened to send an almost manageable worry problem into something that would control me.
Before you ask or give the advice, yes, I did the right things any "good Christian" would do. I repeated scripture, I made post-it notes, I said prayers, and I thought happy thoughts. Nevertheless, the transformation and renewal of the mind in Romans 12:2 that is stated can occur (be transformed by the renewing of the mind) - didn't occur. Mind over matter with a little bit of spirituality was simply not working for me. Notwithstanding, these tricks or disciplines (if you prefer to call them that) did work somewhat in managing my worry and anxiety. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, my almost manageable worry problem eventually sent me into a dark depression that wouldn't lift no matter how hard I tried spiritually. Thankfully His grace sustained me, allowing me to learn a new way of following Christ.
"It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). This verse became one of the game changers for me and my anxious world. What If we lived as if Christ lived within? Do we understand the power of living from Christ within?
Not completely, but with a little bit of learning - we could. Our author, Mark Batterson in the book "If" offers the power of suggestion, the effectiveness of anchoring, and the victory of a mind set on Christ. All of these things are possible. Do you believe it is so?
I used to not, even as licensed minister, a person that has grown up in the faith, a deeply devoted follower of Jesus Christ - passionate- even as a child - to know Him more. I DIDN'T BELIEVE it was true. I couldn't. How could I? When I read God's Word daily, I prayed, and I worked to have all the right thoughts - and still lived with such depression and anxiety.
You see, no amount of trumping the pain in our soul with positive happy thoughts will change our situation or our faith in Christ. It requires us dealing with our brokenness and letting Christ in - all the way in.
When we invite Him into the deepest recesses of our soul something occurs. The external spiritual disciplines become internal lifelines that draw us to His throne of mercy and grace where we receive daily and regularly what we need to live victoriously and powerfully. His Word illuminates the path before us, and becomes the very bread to our hungry hearts. Communion with Him quenches our thirsty souls, and we find our contentment in Him alone. There is an outpouring of grace and love, and we receive the strength needed to overcome. We finally learn what it means to truly live from Christ within. It is not on our own strength or willpower to overcome in this life, but by Christ who lives in us.
The power and effectiveness of soul care is regularly neglected or forgotten. We work to grow spiritually; we take care of our bodies physically, yet our soul remains bruised and damaged. How is your soul today? It is important. The renewal of your mind will hit a wall when your soul remains damaged. In other words, if you divorce the renewal of your mind from the sanctifying of your soul - true victory will remain elusive.
Let me put it this way, allowing God to renew our soul is the catalyst for the renewing of our mind. Here is an example. If I am regularly experiencing anger, I have two or three choices. I can pray for it to go way, and work to move past it. I can try to let God renew my mind and try to think more positive thoughts, and use a little self-talk to work through it. In these two above options, it is ME trying more things to make my anger go away. In these options, the anger may go away for a little while. However, it will eventually return because the real problem - what caused the anger - was never acknowledged or dealt with.
Yet, there is another option. I can stop and take inventory. I can ask God to search my heart, to reveal any anxious way in me. I can ask, "How I am feeling? Am I afraid, am I lonely? Am I sad or has someone hurt me?" This requires me to learn the cause, deal with it by surrendering it to Christ, and receiving His overcoming power in turn.
As we begin to offer ourselves this kind of soul care, we give ourselves a chance to recognize and acknowledge how we are doing and feeling. Most importantly, we give God a chance to ENTER and to sanctify and heal the deepest parts of ourselves. We let Him in, and I mean REALLY in. Therefore, the behavior changes that flow out are not of our own efforts, but the power of Christ in us as He heals us on the inside.
This soul driven inside look is required to truly begin to go beyond behavior modification to living from Christ within. If we are to die to ourselves where it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me-we have to deal with the inside and create a place where Christ can dwell, live, and move through us.
We will gain a better awareness and understanding of self. In other words, we will learn who we are and why we think, act, and respond the way we do. It will also reveal our sinful and deceitful ways of living, operating, and relating.
It begins a path of wholeness and a journey of soul surrender. A willingness and invitation extended to Christ to sanctify us spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23). If we are living in Christ holistically (spirit, soul, and body), a healthy mindset will naturally follow and will be fertile ground for God to work best. This leads us to be able to confidently and truly, as the author encourages, anchor ourselves in Christ and live as if we are overcomers in Him. We will truly live as if Christ lives in us, walking in that power that lives within - because greater is He who lives within, then he that is in the world.
How would your life look different if you were to truly live from Christ within? In what ways can you begin to let God into your inner world, so that your external world can begin to change?