Fear, Anxiety and the Gospel Part 2

Fear, Anxiety and the Gospel Part 2

If you haven’t read part one this will not make that much sense make sure to check out part one here!

As touched upon earlier, our fears play a key role in our sanctification and growth. Without a healthy sense of fear it is near impossible to have a healthy work effect. The book of proverbs is filled with warnings and instructions that are to push us from pride and too repentance and wisdom.

But as mentioned an unhealthy sense of fear does the opposite. Instead of pushing us towards holiness it drives us the other way. Fear causes anxiety. Fear causes dreams to end before they start. Fear kills.

Let’s take the example of a man named Ben fearing isolation and work through some steps biblically he should take to challenge such a fear.

  1. Accept and decipher that this is a fear.

Isolation is a scary reality. Human beings are said to start hallucinating after 48hrs of with no social communication. Yet the Gospel in itself can be an isolator. Isolation from certain social activities and so on. Accepting the fear of isolation will allow one to…   

2. Process through your thoughts, feeling and behaviours surrounding how severe an issue your fears are.

Fear of isolation may leave Ben unable to be alone. Fear of isolation may cause Ben to work hard. However what fear of isolation cannot do is take control of him and his personhood. As mentioned, we must be aware of how we react when our fears a) lead us to sin to attain what we want or b) cause us to sin when we don’t get it. Taking into account how fear affects our decisions is pivotal.

3. Process our thoughts about God, ourselves and others and bring them under to leash of God’s word through the holy spirit.

Being alone is a reality of some stages of human life. Countless numbers of David’s Psalms talk of how alone he feels. The pain of being alone, failed expectations and confusion is not something that God is unaware of. But what is beautiful about the Psalms and something we should emulate is the need to direct our fears vertically. In addition, we need to train our minds to process fearful thoughts biblically. Such as… I am afraid but God is sovereign and to live is Christ and to die is gain. Biblical verse memorisation is key in this area.

4. Look for signs of growth rather than overnight quick fixes.

God has chosen for progressive sanctification to be exactly that. While we should never have a mindset of powerlessness to sin. And one of optimism and joy. With time comes maturity and understanding that God is the grower of our spiritual fruit and he grows us at a rate in accordance to his will. Confirm your election through the means of grace he provides, mainly, a local church and stay sober minded and hopeful that in time a day will come where sin will be not be a thing.

Fear, Anxiety and the Gospel Part 1

Fear, Anxiety and the Gospel Part 1

Fear is good. Fear is what makes you look twice when you cross the road. Fear is what drives you to re-read essays, fear is what makes you go to the doctors for a health check. However, we can all think of one situation where our healthy fears and anxieties crossed this healthy threshold and began controlling us. And uncontrolled fear is where the article is centred.

Xenophobia (The fear of the unknown) is a common example of a fear gone wrong. A fear that in and of itself is healthy and understandable. Knowing what is coming in situations allows us as humans to plan, make strategic decisions and minimise potential dangers. However, as we see in cases such as immigration people’s fears that start off as healthy grow into ravaging beasts that cease control of their minds giving loose to puppies of destruction often named Irrational, Delusional, and Selfish.

Many of our fears are rooted in real life situations that genuinely hurt us or affected us negatively. I think back to the school of friends I know who failed tests in Year 9. Often, they themselves refer back to these moments as to where they turned their educational careers around. Their fear of not applying themselves is a healthy fear that they still carry, and they allow to control their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. However, cases like these should also carry a large yellow warning sign. Often this fear (fear of failure) can drive them to unhealthy anxiety, fear of feeling worthless if good grades aren’t attained, and attaching their worth to their grades and the like. Having a healthy control of our fears is imperative.

Take the young teenage boy who is cheated on by his first love. His fear of being hurt like that again is justified, even should be advised. Relationships have a tendency to hurt us if we don’t establish healthy physical, spiritual and emotional barriers in place. Nonetheless, he too has a responsibility to manage his fears. Fear cannot allow him to view a whole sex in the same light. Fear cannot allow him to become selfish and self-absorbed on his ‘happiness’ or ‘self-growth.’ He cannot afford to allow his fear of being hurt to control his future relationships negatively by shutting down at the sniff of instability. He cannot afford to let fear control him. Doing so will prevent him from living a life as he is called too by scripture.

As someone who has struggled with self-confidence in many stages of my life looking to address my fears wasn’t something that I particularly wanted to do nor felt the need to. I had seen the effects of an unhealthy focus on past traumas and the like. There is a fine line between expressing trauma to help one understand and cope with present realities and constantly reliving past situations starving yourself of the oxygen of hope.

Sin is deceiving. Sin blindsides us most of all in the areas of our fears. Fear blinded Eve in the garden (Fear of missing out or FOMO) (Gen 3:5). Fear led to Saul disliking David. Fear of man led to Peter denying Jesus. Our fears can often be repacked by the devil as noble acts. All the men and listed above either believed their actions were noble or denied they would allow such a fear to control them. And thus, is a key point to take away. Identifying, knowing and dealing with your fears biblically is imperative in one’s mortification of indwelling sin.

Through the work of the spirit attacking unhealthy fears that distort correct views of God, ourselves and others are crucial. Without assigning truths to our fears we live in false delusions of our righteousness and correct decisions, many of which have been driven by our fears. We have to be aware of our propensity to let our fears snowball out of control. Often the fear of not getting what we desire leads to us either sinning to get it or sinning when we don’t get it.

Read part 2 on how the gospel plays a transforming role in how we address our fears and anxieties.

Abandoned but Not Forgotten

Abandoned but Not Forgotten

I write this today as realised its ‘Uncle Phil Day’

My dad left on the day of my first-grade graduation. I remember his car rolling out the drive and down the road with eager anticipation of seeing him tomorrow. As the minutes, rolled into days, and the days into months and the months into years many questions came and went. How will I learn to shave? Youtube. Who will I go to for male advice? My Uncle. Who will teach me to be a man? Myself. But one question has always lingered and I suspect will always linger. Why doesn’t he want me?

Separations and Divorce cases are complicated, but for many, like me, who have little to no communication with their birth parents the pain of this human abandonment is a lingering pain that is like a perpetual wound. Opening and closing. More and more callous with each wound. More and more battle-hardened by each reminder. Many deal with this pain in different ways. The world offers many solutions. Alcohol, Sex, Toxic independence, Toxic Co-dependency, Unhealthy work habits, food, Money, Isolation, Wanderlust all are traditional cures to the pain that human abandonment can cause.

Often our feelings of isolation play out in different ways in our personalities. I’m usually (My time away from home has mellowed me slightly) extremely extroverted. I find joy in spending time with others. Being surrounded by others in the past helped me mute the feelings of not being enough and feeling worthless. My sister is the opposite. Introverted and shy she finds pleasure in her own room with a small tight-knit group of people. Untrusting, beady-eyed and careful.

While in some areas of our lives God sanctifies us quickly in others he chooses to do so slowly. This painful acceptance and the long procedure is designed and fashioned to help us be transformed into his image. The pain is by no means meaningless. Humans have always been designed to live in a community it is after all to the man that God said it was not good for him to be alone. However, as time has gone on I have grown to realise that no amount of friends. No circle wide enough will fill the void of pain that I feel. The importance of turning our pain to God is a clear theme throughout the holy scriptures. The Psalmists teach us to lament to the God of our salvation (Psalm 51, 88 etc), Christ teaches us to cast our burdens onto him (Matthew 11:28-30). The apostles teach us to turn to him and pray to him in our anxiousness(1 Peter 5:7). Why?

As pain is fashioned and designed and solved by one being and one being alone and that is Christ. Turning your eyes to him in your pain. Facing him in the fire and knowing he has never abandoned you is where true faith and obedience is shown. Believing that this is a road you are on alone is a lie that many of us love to believe. Timothy was notably ‘fatherless.’ Many biblical fathers are fathers many of us would rather not have. Feelings of abandonment in Christ are purely that, feelings, as the reality is our union with Christ which is unbreakable and permanent.

Accept the realities of being abandoned in this world but never forget the truth of the union in this world and in the next. Thank God for his sovereign election and take joy in the means of grace God provides in the church through older men.

Older men have been a true blessing to me. Especially in my time here. Men who have taken me under their wing. Check in on on my pain and care for my needs even though they have earthly sons and daughters of their own. This is the blessing that God has provided to me through his gift of the church.

Blessings peace and love,

Akwasi

The Culture Shock Diaries #005 – Dealing with Dark Times

The Culture Shock Diaries #005 – Dealing with Dark Times

‘I have learnt much more about the grace of God in times of darkness than in times of prosperity’ – Tim Keller

I feel this blog will slowly move into a reflections/review/thoughts page of a lot to the Christian material that I tend to consume in certain periods. Currently times are 马马虎虎 (google it). But as Tim and many others have made a point of and reminded me of is that we learn far more about God’s grace in periods of struggle and pain than in abundance and riches.

I am a firm believer that Christians can go through long long seasons of darkness, sadness and confusion. It could even be argued that it is inevitable. Being an exile in a foreign home can be disorientating. Death and injustice is the marker of this world. Even within the church, tensions lead to lack of unity and reconciliation can often look untenable (and sometimes it isn’t until Christ returns’

Jesus was truly abandoned so those who put their trust in him will only ever feel abandoned.

On the cross Jesus became a curse for us. (Galatians 3:13). For our sin he became sin, by absorbing the wrath of the father, that should have been poured on us (2 Cor 5:21). He forsook all he had ever known in order to become the propitiation for the sins we committed (Romans 3:23,25). His real isolation from the father and spirit, brought us into right standing with God and into union with him (Romans 8:1, 1 Peter 3:18). While many believers and Christians feel isolation (Psalm 22), it is, and will always be a false illusion and misrepresentation of the truth of a God who will ‘never leave us nor forsake us’ (Hebrews 13:5, John 14:6)

Not all dark times are meant to ‘go away’ many are designed to sanctify you.

Accepting that dark times are meant to form you, not break you, while being hard to accept, is a real and true reality of life. Lost relatives, failed job applications and long term decisions ‘gone wrong’ are all things outside of our control. Things we are unable to change. Things that remind of us God’s sovereignty, even in times of strife. Dark times allow us to lament. Dark times allow us to learn about God’s grace clearer than in sunny times. Dark times teach us the importance of finding our joy in Christ and Christ alone.

Turn to God in your complaints

Tim Keller has an amazing sermon on this topic. In his look at Psalm 88, one of 2 Psalms where the Psalmist only speaks of his sadness, Keller wisely points out how the Psalmists complaint is to God, and this is where our complaints must find a home. In God and God alone. This proves our belief that he is the one that cares. He is the one who listens to our prayers. He is the one that has the power to, if in his will, to turn our situation around.

Grace, Peace and Love

Akwasi

The Culture Shock Diaries #004

The Culture Shock Diaries #004

Shame, Shame, Shame

Everyone has to tackle shame in one way or another but the gospel truly deals with our shame in a way that the world can not.

Mary Willson’s workshop on shame and discussing this issue this with a few spiritually older and mature men was especially helpful in forming and working through the importance of processing shame in a biblical and gospel centred fashion.

My biggest struggle with sin comes in the form of dealing with the shame of failing or ‘losing face’. This always involves falling short of a standard sometimes biblical but often man centred. At times this has led me to deep deep despair. Even of life itself at times. Sometimes this would even promote further cyclical failings as I tried, unsuccessfully, to right my wrongs on my terms and not biblical terms (Sometimes the best thing you can do is do nothing). Many of us place and create standards for ourselves but often these can be “unrealistic and crippling” in the words of Mary Willson.

Mary discussed how her ‘unrealistic model’ was aiming to be the person who could ‘remember everyone’s names’ with ease. For me, it was being the friend you could always call on. Moving abroad forces you to face your shortcomings in one way or another usually quicker than if you had been in your comfort zone. For me failing to answer a friend’s phone call felt like a major major failure. Even when one would call me in the middle of the night (time difference issues) I would answer in fear of losing face. Failing to live up to my own standard created in me false justifications. Failing to answer meant I could mean missing a distress call, a sickness alert, a death. Failing to answer meant failing to care for those nearest and dearest which meant failing to love my neighbour as myself.

As you can see, man-centred, unrealistic standards, often lead to quiet idols which we start to equate with our level of piousness. For me, this led to increasing fear and isolation and me feeling isolated when I subconsciously pinned my standards onto others and they failed to meet my created standard.

The gospel answers this call to shame. Our feelings of shame point to the cross. They point to how we truly are fragile beings. Reset by David Murray reminded me of this principle again. We cannot do anything and everything. We have limitations. We are designed to sleep, eat and rest. Total reliability cannot be expected of any of us.

I will leave you with 5 bible focused ways that may help you deal with shame. But the real answer to all feelings of shame (self-inflicted or man inflicted) is the same. The gospel.

  1. Come out of hiding – Bring what we want to hide into the light starting with God and ending with those that are relevant (Close friends and mentors and sometimes medical professionals. To me this looked like talking to old friends and speaking with elders at my church and wise older men)
  2. Put your feelings of shame to work – Identify the feelings of your shame – Are they God honouring or self-created unrealistic standards? Have you failed on an exam you worked hard on? Or do you feel shame for lying to others about the poor grade?
  3. If your shame comes from failing biblically, repent and trust in God’s full acceptance of you in Christ – God is scandalously patient with us. He initiates salvation. He finishes it. We play no part in it, yet often we act as if it is our responsibility to work for it and not work it out with his spirit working through us (Phil 2:12-13). This requires, constant daily, work. Focus on the means of grace.
  4. If your shame comes from failing in the eyes of others turn that shame away from man centred approval and towards God – God has a way of turning our man felt shame away from man’s criticism towards God’s word. Fix and deal with any effects of your shame primarily vertically with God but then horizontally with others. In the words of an elder at my church, he told me of how often ‘time is needed’ when he has broken his wife’s trust. While it is uncomfortable being reminded of the effects of your sin, use this to fix your eyes again on how gracious God is in forgiving and reconciling you to himself. This should trump any feelings of guilt/lack of reconciliation with others.
  5. Set Christ as your model for honour – ‘https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+34%3A4-5&version=ESV’
The Culture Shock Diaries #003

The Culture Shock Diaries #003

Today’s edition is short.

Listening to the Black Berea podcast today reminded me of how many dreams regret robs us of, and how intoxicating nostalgia can be.

Regret romanticises the real grit and ugliness of success. Meanwhile, nostalgia hides us from the true need for constant progression.

While away from home it is easy to romanticise how perfect home comforts are while ignoring the many benefits of your new culture.

Regretting your decision to move, at times, will be inevitable, but it too often ignores the fact you wouldn’t be who you are now with the mindset you have now without the inflictions God led you through.

Glory to God

Peace and Love

Akwasi

The Culture Shock Diaries #002

The Culture Shock Diaries #002

When Will You Come for Your Daughters and Sons?

Kim Burrell
When – Kirk Franklin, Kim Burrell, Lalah Hathaway

One of the biggest lessons my time in China has taught me has been the meaning of living as an exile”. An exile is “one removed from his or her homeland for a reason.

As a Christian while the Glory of God is on display to us all around us (Romans 1:20), so too are reminders of how fallen and decrepit and broken this world is. Death, illness and hope deferred are all daily reminders of the sadness that a life on earth is accompanied with.

And this is why Solomon reminds us that is better to go to a funeral than a feast. Good times are signs of God’s glory. Bad times are signs of our perpetual thirst for his grace. A thirst that will only be fulfilled when Christ returns. But the question that is left is what about now?

Life as an exile on earth is first a recognition of where home lies (Heaven), and then a desire to live appropriately for the given season. Moving from the U.K. to China for me meant leaving behind friends, family, comforts, dreams and many more things. It meant leaving behind everything that I knew and that was precious to me. But it also afforded me an opportunity. A chance to strip away everything my faith had relied on before, and be met face to face with myself and my depravity and thus my ever increasing need for a saviour (This is coming in #003).

Being black in Asia carries extreme perpetual reminders of how far from home (England) I am. I don’t have an oven, I’m stared at perpetually, I can’t read everything I see (Which for a know-it-all can be quite distressing). At times I have found it much easier to sit indoors than face the fanfare, pictures, and whispers that may come from me taking a stroll around the block. But this, while a painful lesson to learn like all afflictions, it points to much bigger narrative.

Daniel is the clearest biblical display of what being a model exile looks like. For lack of time I can’t go into his story today but the bible project has a great video him which you can check out here.

The ‘pain’ of exile in China has reminded me of the real pain that I should feel about being removed from heaven. At times, I have let this feeling of isolation speak to me too me too much. I have desired at times to go home on my own terms. I have also gone the other way, desiring to feel my void of emptiness my the pleasures of the world and through human relationships. But like all idols they crack under the pressure of a weight they were not meant to carry. I have had to learn to rely on God more than I have ever ‘needed’ (I say needed as I have always needed him).

David Murray’s Reset has been of great help to me. I initially started reading it to help a friend who mentioned they had anxiety. Unfortunately for me and my ego I realised it was I who was in desperate need of the book instead. He talks about how he was hospitalised through stress, not once but twice. I will talk on this book much more once I have finished reading it but for all my fellow exiles what is important to remember that in all our trails and afflictions on earth (2 Cor 1:3-7), we are truly called respond like Job.

A) He knows where we are ‘But he knows the way that I take’ (Job 23:10a)

B) He knows what he is doing ‘When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.’ (Job 23:10b)