Craig Groeschel - Finding Relief From Anxiety
All right, who's ready for a confession from your pastor? A confession. I'll tell you very honestly, that I know Jesus, I love Jesus, I faithfully follow Jesus, but I still battle with overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Wish that wasn't the case. I don't know how anxiety would hit you or not, but in this more complicated season, I find myself often waking up around 2:00 in the morning with this massive weight of the workload, and my mind will often lock in on all of the responsibilities and all the things that I have to do, and I'll find myself in the middle of the night fighting just to catch my breath, trying to calm my spirit, and overcome with very real sense of panic and anxiety.
To be clear, I do know Jesus, I love Jesus, I'm faithfully following Jesus, but even as a pastor, I battle with very real, very deep anxiety. Chances are there are some of you that you might be able to relate, maybe even unfortunately more this year than ever before, because everybody knows that 2020 is the longest year in history. It's like 17 years in one. I don't know if you've thought forward, but I can guarantee you 2020 is going to become an adjective going forward, right? People are gonna say, don't you go 2020 on me. You're acting so 2020 right now. I can just feel it coming because it's like the longest year, it's just like crazy season everywhere you go, and it's no wonder people feel so anxious.
I mean, introduce this mysterious virus that spreads like wildfire, that shuts down the entire world, disrupts everything that you've ever known as normal. Add to it, massive economic fears, and racial tension, and political division, and biased news, and a bunch of you all freaked out, posting all your conspiracy theories online. It's no wonder that people feel anxious, and lonely, and unsettled, and searching for something that feels normal, calm, and peaceful. In fact, I read an interesting statistic that, it's according to the National Center for Health, and it contrasted the emotional state of people in July of 2019, compared to people in July of 2020. What difference would one year make? Well, according to the study, in July of 2019 8.2% of adults showed signs of anxiety disorder, 8.2%. Fast forward one year, and in July of 2020, 36% of adults showed signs of anxiety disorder.
In this message series called, "Emotions", we're looking at some of the emotions that Jesus endured, some of them that he expressed. Today I want to look at anxiety, and as we do, I want to just start by acknowledging that anxiety is very, very complicated. Anxiety, it can be physiological, it can be emotional, it can be situational, anxiety can even be spiritual. And so, when we talk about anxiety, what I want to do is, I always want to take a holistic approach. Meaning, you might want to see a doctor who might help you with your diet, or might give you supplements, or could give you medicine that could be very helpful. You might want to go to a counselor to deal with your anxiety. We want to take a holistic approach. The only area I'm qualified to talk about is spiritual.
And so, while we're going to take a holistic approach today, I want to speak from a spiritual perspective into a very real emotion so many of us are enduring today. I want to look at how Jesus dealt with anxiety. So as we talk about anxiety as a Christian, it kind of raises the question, like, if I feel anxious, did I fail God? Am I letting God down? Am I not living by faith? Is it a sin to be anxious? I want to say very, very clearly, it's not a sin to be anxious. Anxiety is a little bit like anger. Anger in itself is not necessarily a sin, anger can lead to sin. "In your anger", the Bible says, "do not sin". Just like anger, anxiety can, and often does, lead to sin, but feeling anxiety in a moment doesn't mean you've let God down.
In fact, it might surprise you, when you look at the son of God, Jesus, and objectionably observe what he endured, many people would say that Jesus had extraordinary anxiety as he realized what he would have to endure, as he looked ahead to the suffering, the price he would pay, as he would give his life for us on the cross. In fact, what I want to do today is I want to look very specifically at how Jesus responded to anxiety. What's interesting, whenever Jesus felt anxious, you know what he did? He did what my 15 year old daughter Joy does, he started talking. Joy just talks, and talks, and talks, and talks. Whenever anxiety rose up, Jesus talked back. He had something to say whenever he felt anxious. And what I want to do is I want to look at how he wrestled with and overcame anxiety, and we're gonna show you three different places, three different things to talk to from the life of Jesus in Mark chapter 14.
How do you find relief from anxiety? The first thing we see Jesus do is something you may want to do. Number one, you may want to talk to your friends. Whenever you're feeling overwhelmed, whenever you're feeling anxious, whenever you're feeling a heaviness or a weight, it's really wise to talk to godly, spiritual, or helpful friends. In fact, I'm gonna give you the context of Jesus' conversation in Mark 14. This was after the last supper, and he was with his life group. That's what it was. It was his disciples, his closest friends. And Judas, one of his 12, had slipped away to go and betray Jesus.
You could only imagine Jesus knew that the hurt and anxiety that would cause, and then Jesus went with three buddies to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, and we read this in Mark 14 verse 32. The place they went to, it was called Gethsemane, which means the crushing, and Jesus started talking to his friends. And he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray. And then he took Peter, James, and John, the three of them, along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled". The Son of God, Jesus, who was perfect and never sinned, was deeply distressed and troubled. I like the way The Message, which is a devotional translation, actually translates verse 33. It says of Jesus, "He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony".
I wonder if any of you have been in a place like that recently? It's just like a sinkhole of the heart beating, hard to catch your breath, sins of darkness and panic all around you. He sank into this dark hole of dreadful agony. Well, why did he do this? Well, Jesus was God in the flesh and he knew the horror of what was about to come. Even though he was completely innocent. He was going to be arrested, then tortured, and die death by crucifixion, the most painful and completely humiliating way possible to die. Even worse, Jesus was perfect, he was sinless, and he was about to become sin as the sacrifice for sins.
So if you can imagine, he's never sinned, he's always enjoyed perfect fellowship and communion with his heavenly Father, and he was going to become, name it, rape, abuse, hatred, violence, racism, envy, lying, lust and the list goes on. He was going to become that. Holiness becomes filthiness. The one who never sinned became sin, and because of it, his Father, who he loved and always walked with, had to turn away. Because of the holiness of God, he could not look upon that. And Jesus would cry out perhaps the most painful of all the suffering. "My God, my God, daddy, where are you? Why'd you have to turn away? Why have you forsaken me"? And in the middle of that kind of sinkhole, the emotional agony.
Watch the honesty that Jesus has with his friends. You ever notice how nobody lies like Christians? You know what I'm saying? It's like, I call it like praise the Lord voice. You're like, "How are you doing"? "Praise the Lord, I'm fine". "How are you doing"? "Glory to God, I'm great". I mean, even if you're not faking it, sometimes you're like, "How are you doing"? "I'm fine". "How are you doing"? "Keeping on keeping on". Whatever. I mean, watch Jesus with just raw, complete, transparent honesty to his friends. Here's what he says, he says, "Guys, my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death". In other words, I ache so much on the inside, I don't know if I can survive it. That's what Jesus said. He said, "Would you please just stay here, keep watch. I need you more than I can describe". He talked to his friends.
I believe that one of the biggest reasons that so many people are battling with anxiety today, you're feeling anxious because you're lacking community. I honestly believe it. There's so many people that you're feeling unsettled, you're scared to death. You're vulnerable to whatever the latest rumor of bad news is because you're lacking godly, encouraging, uplifting, spiritual building community from the body of Christ. In fact, I'm guessing it's gonna take years of study to look back to this season, just to get an accurate picture of what quarantine isolation has done to the emotional psyche of a whole generation. Because if you go all the way back to the beginning of the book, the Bible, the word of God, in the very opening story God says, it's not good to be isolated. It's not good to be disconnected. God said, "It's not good that people be alone".
In fact, who is Jesus? The incarnation. He is God with us, Emmanuel. In other words, God didn't just like shout his love from heaven, but he showed his love on earth, he came to be with us. It's the power of with. It's the body of Christ. And that's why the number one, most common thing I've heard from people who came back to church after months of isolation, when they walked into the building they just were overwhelmed with emotion, just sort of crying. And person after person said, "I had no idea how much I missed just being with our people".
There's something about the presence of God with your friends. You weren't created to be alone. It's a little bit like the difference between praying for and praying with. I love it when people pray for me, and I love to pray for you, but there is a difference than when you pray for me and we pray with each other. You can post something on my social media and say, "Pray for me". And what I promise you is if I see it I will pray for you. And you can know that. You can know, "Oh, Craig prayed for me". And that's special, but if we put on masks, and we put on gloves, 'cause we're going to be safe and smart and not put ourselves, and if we hold hands together, and you don't just pray for me and I don't just pray for you, but we pray with each other, there's something about experiencing the presence of God with his people.
Jesus, the sinless Son of God says to his friends, "I need you". He talks to them and he says, "This is crushing me. I don't know if I can make it through this. Would you guys just sit here close to me? Will you pray for me? My soul is overwhelmed. It feels like I can't make it. Please, please, just pray for me". If you're feeling anxiety, the first thing you can do is you can do what Jesus did, you can talk to some godly people and talk to your friends. The second thing you can do is you can talk to your Father, not just your earthly father, but Deidre, you ever noticed how Deidre gets excited all the time? Just in case you're watching online and you hear, "Come on". Just so you'll know, that's Deidre who's helping me preach the front row. And you can talk, come on Deidre, you can talk to your heavenly Father.
Let me explain it to you this way, I don't know if this creates anxiety in you, but it doesn't me, do you ever hate when the little red light goes off in your car? You get the little exclamation point, which I found out means my tires are low, and I'm thankful that's all it is. Or you get the check engine light, ah, okay? What is that little light mean? Well, the little red indicator light isn't the problem. What that light is, is it's a signal that there's something wrong and you would be wise to take your car to the manufacturer. What is anxiety? Anxiety is a signal alerting you that it's time to pray. It's time to take what's on your mind to God.
In fact, Paul said this, Paul told the Philippians, he said, "Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, you take your request to God". In everything, you pray. In every situation, you pray. In other words, if it's big enough to worry about, oh, it's big enough to pray about. What's on your mind, what's on your heart, take it to God. If you're worried about your marriage, pray about your marriage. If you're worried about the economy, pray about the economy. If you're worried about the election, pray about the election. If you're worried about your job, pray about your job. If you're worried about a decision you have to make, "Oh my gosh, there's so many options of what should I do"? Pray about those decisions.
If you're worried about your kids going back to school, are they going to go on Monday and Tuesday, or on Thursday and Friday, or we don't know, and now I'm a homeschool parent and I didn't choose this. Pray about your kids. If you're worried about somebody getting sick, pray about it. If you're worried about you're getting sick, but not really about the virus, but getting that thing shoved up your nose to tickle your brain and may come out the other side of your head. Pray about it. If it's on your mind, it's on God's heart. If it's big enough to worry about, it's big enough to pray about. What is anxiety? It's a signal alerting you, it's time to pray.
Jesus talked to his friends, he also talked to his heavenly Father. We see it in verse 35. "Going a little farther, he fell to the ground", and what did Jesus do? He just cried out to God, "And prayed that if it's possible that this hour might pass", if there's any other way God let's do it that way, right? "'Abba, father', he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me'". Please, I don't want to suffer this way. Here's what I love about Jesus' prayer, is it's just honest. It's honest. It wasn't like memorized. In fact, I think one of the bigger mistakes we make sometimes is by teaching our kids just to pray memorized prayers. Then the ones we teach them, dear God in heaven, who came up with some of the prayers we teach them? Your know the first prayer I prayed? Terrifying prayer.
Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake. I pray the Lord my soul to take. Who came up with that prayer to teach a four year old? You might die tonight, and if you do, someone's gonna take your soul, you better ask it to be God, 'cause it might be the other side taking your soul where you don't want to go. Who came up with that? Who thought that was a good idea? Jesus doesn't pray just some, God is great, God is good, whatever prayer, he cries out from the depths of his soul, and that's what God wants from you. Peter said to, "Cast your cares upon him", just to let him have it, "because God cares for you".
You might just cry out to God, I don't know how and I don't know what, and I don't know if I can take this anymore. I promise you, God would rather you be honest and unleash on him than be some kind of fake hypocrite and just walk away. He's big enough to handle the hurt in your soul. He already knows, cast your cares upon him. There's something healing about telling God when you're afraid, and when you're doubting, and when you don't understand, and when you're even upset of the way things are. He can handle your honesty. Father, things are falling apart. I'm finding it hard to trust you right now. I can't even catch my breath. Why couldn't you? Why didn't you? I know you could and you didn't God, where are you? What's going on? Why are you allowing this to happen? I'm trying to trust you, but I'm finding it really difficult right now. That kind of honesty.
Jesus says, "Hey, if we can do it another way, my soul is being crushed right now. I know what's coming and I don't like it God. I'm just telling you, if there's any other way God, I'm begging you, can we do it another way"? What are you do when it's 2:00 in the morning and you can't sleep again? There's shortness of breath. You feel like the world's closing in on you. Just talk to some spiritual friends and love each other. Experience God with others who know Jesus like you. Talk to your Father, honestly and from the heart.
And the third thing that we see Jesus do is when you're feeling anxious, you talk to your feelings. You talk to your feelings. I've got a question, everybody be honest, does anybody else have like whacked out, jacked up, wayward feelings every now and then? Type it in the chat. Just type in, "I'm crazy sometimes. I'm crazy sometimes". You know, people, they're like saying, "Hey, you know, follow your heart, trust your feelings". Don't do that. Listen, if I follow my feelings, I'll be in jail by two o'clock you know? Don't follow your feelings. You are not your feelings. Your feelings are real, and your feelings are important, but your feelings are not always true. What you want to do is you want to tell your feelings, you don't get to lead me.
You talk to your feelings, you speak truth to your feelings. What do I mean? You just tell your feeling, you ain't the boss of me. Okay? Just because I feel that doesn't mean that it's true. And you know that because sometimes you worry about and obsess about things that never, ever happen. You're gonna talk to your feelings about your faith, and that's exactly what Jesus did. Watch what he did in verse 36. He said, "'Abba, father", he said, "everything's possible for you. Take this cup from me". That's what I want, that's what I want. But then I'm going to tell my feelings, "Yet not what I will, but what God will". Okay?
What did Jesus feel like? He did not feel like suffering. He never woke up saying, "I want to be rejected, I want to be abused, I want to be falsely accused, I want to be physically beaten, I want to be stripped of my clothes and hang naked and ashamed. I want to pay some price for a crime I didn't commit. I want to be misunderstood. I want to be despised. I want to feel physical pain and emotional distance from my God". He never said that. Speak to your feelings, tell your feelings the truth. Whenever you start to feel like, well maybe God doesn't love me. You say, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. The truth is, God is love. For God so loved the world. For God so loved me, that he gave his one and only son that whosoever would believe in him would not perish, but would have eternal life". Whenever you feel like, I just feel like I'm all alone and nobody really cares. No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
There are people around me. God has given me the right people, and my God will never leave me, he will never forsake me. Whenever you start to worry about finance. Oh my gosh, there's more month left than money. You just tell yourself, "No, my God is my abundant provider. He will meet all of my needs according to his glories and riches". Whenever you feel like I just can't go on. You just tell your feelings, "No, I can do all things through the risen Christ who gives me strength. I am not a victim. I am an overcomer by the blood of the lamb and by the words of my testimony".
What did Jesus do with his anxiety? He talked to his friends, his spiritual support system. He talked to his Father and he cried out to God. He talked to his feelings. Some of you, you got to tell your feelings to get in line. I want you to align with my faith. I'm not letting you drive me. You're not the boss of me. I'm leading you back to my faith. Here's what's the truth, although I feel it, it may not be true. You gotta talk to your feelings. What did Jesus do? He talked to his friends, he talked to his Father, he talked to his feelings. And guess what? It worked. It really worked. It worked. Think about it.
What did Jesus do? He stumbled into the garden, almost unable to stand, under the weight of soul crushing anxiety. He talked to his friends, he talked to his Father, and he talked to himself, and when the soldiers came to arrest him, when they beat him mercilessly, when he faced an unjust trial, and was executed with excruciating pain, and the shame and humiliation on a cross, what did he do? He said, "No man takes my life". Wow. He was resolute. He was strong. He was full of faith. He was determined. He was unshakeable. "No one takes my life. I choose to lay it down". When he was hanging on the cross, and the creation was at its worst, mocking and spitting upon the creator, God in the flesh, Jesus looked up to his Father and said, "Father, please forgive them, for they don't even know what they're doing". And he said, "It's finished. I did what you sent me to do. Into your hands Father I commit my spirit". And he gave his life.
What Jesus did worked. How do you deal with anxiety? Honestly, it's the same way that I've been dealing with the anxiety that I felt. Because I do love Jesus, I follow Jesus, but I've still been dealing with anxiety. So I've been talking to Amy every day, been talking to Mike and Diane, I've been talking to Scott, I've been talking to Pacho, I've been talking to pastor Steven Furtick, I've been talking to my friends, I've been talking to my counselor. I've been talking to God and some conversations that might make you blush. "Pastor really"? Yeah, really. I've cried out to him, and I've told my feelings, you're not the boss of me. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells within me. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. God has given me everything I need to do everything that he's called me to do. I've been crying out to God, and talking to my feelings, and my friends have helped bring me strength.
Paul said this, Paul said from a Roman prison to the Philippians in chapter four verse six, he said, "Don't be anxious about anything". We could put some words in there for you, I don't know what it would be. Don't be anxious about the virus. Is that too big to say? Don't be anxious about the election. Don't be anxious about the future. Don't be anxious about the decisions your child is making, or your marriage, "but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God", and watch this, watch this, the very same thing that Jesus experienced, "and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus".
Those of you that need the peace of God, would you just stand to your feet right now? All of our churches, if you're watching online, you might stand up in your bedroom, stand up in your living room. It is the peace of God that will guard you. It is the peace of God. It's not your peace, it's not the peace of this world. That means the world can't give it and the world can't take it away. You understand that even when your soul feels overwhelmed with anxiety, there is no storm God can't bring you through, there's no obstacle God can't help you overcome, there's no enemy that our God cannot defeat, and there is no heartache that our God won't heal. His name is Jesus. His name is Jesus. Get ready to sing it church, get ready to sing it. When I say Jesus, the very mention, it shatters the darkness and it calms my soul. When I say Jesus, even a whisper breaks through my doubting, church, till all my fear is gone. His name is Jesus. Cry out, lift up your hands, lift up your voices and worship the name above all names. His name is Jesus.