By Joy Lopes
Staff Writer for The Daily Grace Co.
At its very roots, anxiety highlights our dependency on God. It is the experience of staring your own finitude in the face as a created human being. Most of the time, when we recognize our finiteness at any given moment of the day, we may not think in our minds, “Oh shoot, I forgot that I’m finite.” Maybe it sounds more like, “How am I going to get this all done?”, “I can’t do this,” “What if…?” In actuality, remembering that we are finite is almost always the reality at work in our hearts when we feel anxious. Of course, there are those who experience clinical or other forms of anxiety that may not be related to this experience, but regardless of the root-cause, our infinite God meets us in all of it.
Anxiety almost always creeps up on me when I forget that I’m not in control but when I feel like I need to have control. The beautiful mystery of this is that as I forget that I am finite, and as a result feel anxious, that anxiety is literally a physical reminder that I have limits, and the hope is that it would then point me to the only One who doesn’t.
What Does It Mean That We Are Finite?
First of all, we can never forget or escape the fact that we are created beings. A necessary implication of this fact is that we are finite creatures. When we say that we are “finite creatures,” it means that we have limits. As much as we may strive to live under the guise of pseudo-self-sufficiency, we will always be brought back to the reality that we are limited, dependent beings, who ultimately have no real control over the things that happen in daily life. The irony of it all is that those who are the best at pretending that they are independent, self-sufficient creatures, are often the most anxious people, deep down inside. This is because the more we try to control our lives and our circumstances, the more starkly we will meet with the truth that we really have no control. I did not create myself–nor can I sustain even my own breath–how could I have thought for a single moment that I can control anything outside of myself?
What Does It Mean That God Is Infinite?
On the other end of the spectrum, or truly, on a completely different scale, we see God. God is not a creature; He is The Creator. God is, by nature, limitless. He can do anything, and He does everything without any barriers or capacity shortages. God never faces burnout, and He never experiences anxiety because there is nothing over which He does not have control. To use a theological term, God is a se, which means that He is utterly, totally, and completely independent of anything outside of Himself to exist, create, or operate. How far above even our capacity to mentally grasp Him is this One?
O LORD, you have searched me and known me!Psalm 139:1-6
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Finding Comfort in Our Finitude
Now, this finitude is not something we always take pleasure in, and more often it leads us to the very anxiety that started this discussion. If we think back to Genesis and Adam and Eve in the garden, we realize that they made the same mistake that we make today: they forgot that they were the creature, not the Creator. Adam and Eve, in their very first sin, failed to live in light of their dependence on God because the Serpent had told them they could know all that God knew and thereby sustain themselves. The Serpent lied, and we have been functionally believing his lie in various ways every day since.
But there is a simple practice we can cultivate in our lives that will put anxiety to “good use” and send the Serpent running in defeat. Now, anxiety itself is not good, and it is usually a sign that our hearts are not trusting the Lord and that we are instead relying on our own insufficiency; however, there is a smidgen of truth amidst the lies that anxiety spews at us in our weakest moments: “You can’t do this.” Hear it from me today, friend: that is true. On your own, you can do nothing (John 15:5). You need the Lord to sustain you every moment of every day, and His good hands are the ones that plan your future, not your own.
So, here is the beauty we can draw out of anxious thoughts today–we are finite, but our God is infinite. We are weak, but He is superabundant in strength. We cannot control today, but He holds it, and us, in the palm of His sovereign and kind hand. What if we make it a habit, every time we feel anxiety, to close our eyes, take a deep breath, and thank the Lord for reminding us that we are not in control? Then we can thank Him that He is and that His is all the strength we need; He orders our days for our good. He is sufficiency itself, because everything we have and need flows from His good, Creator hands.
Ultimately, we hope that in time, the feelings and frequency of our anxiety will begin to dissipate as we learn to constantly acknowledge our neediness and the Lord’s endlessness. But praise Him, because He meets us where we are today.