According to scripture, anxiety is not treated by acquiring some new hope that our earthly situation will soon change or new proofs that it will be more stable than we expected. Scripture teaches anxiety is treated when the Word and Spirit grant us to see the eternal God more clearly, whose love for his people is unchanged and untouched by the fads and impulses and instincts of earthly life. In Christ crucified for us, risen for us, reigning for us, coming again for us, we have the stability we have always been looking for. Here alone, on this Rock, is true, lasting and ever new contentment.
“Our life on earth is a brief pilgrimage between two moments of nakedness.” So wrote the late Rev. John Stott. He was commenting on Paul’s candid way of summoning the believer’s soul to the green pastures of contentment.
Writing to Timothy, Paul says: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world (1 Tim. 6:6-7).
How do two lowly moments of nakedness summon us contentment? Think about it. We brought nothing into the world. No shoes. No shirt. No food. No money. We entered life naked. We were desperately dependent on the love and resources of others. Wonderfully, contrary to all our deserving, we were given food, clothing, shelter and more. Our desperate need was met.
When we come to die, we will be desperate again. Naked again. Cold again. Poor again. We enter the next world taking nothing from this one. Yet God’s goodness far exceeds that of our earthly parents. If they dressed us after our desperate birth, how much more will our heavenly Father dress us after our desperate death. He will raise our decaying bodies from the grave. He will keep our sins from bringing us into judgment. He will welcome us into his eternal kingdom. He will dress us in the glory of his Son. He will shelter us in the city of God. Our contentment then should rest upon us in hope now.
What then is discontentment, anxiety, brooding, worry? These are ailments of soul when we are captivated by fear that life is not as stable as we think it should be. We have slipped. Earthly life has filled the frame. When the consolations of divine stability are eclipsed by earthly tumults, anxiety grips and squeezes and chokes.
In Psalm 94 the psalmist is in anxiety’s choking grip. The arrogance and ascendency of the wicked has captured him. They prey on the weak. They mock the devotion of the righteous. “They say, ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive” (94:7). Even worse, God seems withdrawn from the godly and remains quiet before the noise of the proud. Thus, the psalmist confesses: “My foot slips” (94:18). The instability of earthly affairs tempts him to lose his footing in the hope of God.