We are a people of words. Words permeate everything we do — even our thoughts are framed in words. Because we are created in God’s image, and because he chose to give us a written guide beginning with the 10 Commandments, I think words matter to God. In fact, I know words matter to him. Jesus said, in Luke 6,
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Anxiety is a thorn I deal with on a daily basis. Usually I’m able to push it aside, but sometimes it takes root, and then panic sets in. The other day my husband and daughter started talking about a trip to Italy that they are planning next spring, and they both pleaded with me to go with them. The mere thought of flying (across the ocean!) and being in unfamiliar places where the language is unfamiliar and the food is unfamiliar and the water will likely make me sick….I shudder just to think of it. Most of you probably laugh at these fears or imagine that they are easily surmountable. I wish that was the case, with all my heart. Instead, my body started in with a full blown panic attack — a squeezing, heavy pain settled in my chest, my heart began to race, and I started trembling from head to toe. Just from thinking about it! Even now as I write these words my body betrays me, and the only way I fight back the panic is assuring myself that I will not be going with them this time.
The guilt I feel about not being able to experience life fully with my family because of my anxieties is tremendous. When an attack hits, I’m usually very down on myself and spiral into depression: I hate this aspect of my personality and wish I could cut it off like Jesus said to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin. I’ve been struggling for awhile, wondering if this anxiety is, in and of itself, a sin. But, thanks to the prayers of my friends who know this about me and to the God who created me and gave me Romans 8:38-39, I’ve had a breakthrough!
Romans 8:38-39, NIV
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[m] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These verses have always been a comfort to me. Yet lately I have been worried that my worries are sinful — afraid that this anxiety I experience, this inability to let go and trust God to such an extent that the panic attacks go away, is sin in and of itself.
But God in His great love showed me Romans 8:38-39 in a different light today — one that makes my spirit sing! There is hope for me yet!
Romans 8:38-39, New Living Translation
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[o] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In black and white, I learn from these verses that my fears and worries do NOT have the power to separate me from the love of God that is revealed in Christ.
Taking it deeper, I looked up the Greek words in this verse and came upon another treasure:
The phrase “fears for today” is encompassed in the Greek word enistemi. It means “to place in or among; to impend or threaten; or to be close at hand.” I am very acquainted with feeling like the present circumstances are threatening, even when clearly they are not. The phrase “worries about tomorrow” comes from the Greek word mello, which literally means “about to be suffering something.” I am very up close and comfortable with this fear of things to come. It’s almost as if this verse was written For. Me.
God never leaves me, does he? Not when I am feeling fears for today nor worries for tomorrow — these anxieties are not sins. Rather, they are indicators of my need for Him and for His covering, and according to these verses, they can’t take me away from my God.
My mom used to joke about me — that I get afraid over being afraid. And that’s the truth (she knows me well)! But these verses give me one less thing to worry about. My heart may be overflowing with anxieties…but at least “fear of being separated from God’s love because of them” is no longer among them!