- Sunday, May 12, 2024

Amid the hustle and bustle of modern life, there’s a quiet epidemic that often goes unnoticed yet affects millions: anxiety. In a world where connection seems more accessible than ever through technology, paradoxically, loneliness and anxiety are on the rise.

Recent studies reveal a startling reality: Americans are experiencing record levels of loneliness, with over half reporting feeling lonely or socially isolated. The very fabric of society seems to be fraying as we grapple with the consequences of hyper-connectivity coupled with a profound sense of disconnection.

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As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, it’s evident that our mental well-being is under siege. From the relentless pressures of work and finances to the curated perfectionism perpetuated by social media, the modern landscape can feel like a breeding ground for anxiety. Rising costs of living add further strain, exacerbating feelings of uncertainty and insecurity. Despite our seemingly interconnected world, many find themselves increasingly isolated, longing for genuine connection amidst the digital noise. Delving into the heart of this pressing issue, this chapter explores how we can overcome our anxieties even in life’s storms, shining a light on the path toward peace and resilience in an anxious world.

If you and I are going to be Overcomers and live courageously in this mess, it’d be helpful to understand some of it. After we see ultimate reality in Revelation 4–5, in Revelation 6 we get more help seeing behind all the mess. We get some good news about how we can endure and stand with confidence in light of all this pain — the pain of others and our pain as well.

When it comes to suffering, we see several things in the Scriptures that form a paradox we should hold in tension as finite, created beings seeking to understand an infinite and eternal God. The first is that God is good (Mark 10:18), all the works of His hands are faithful and just (Psalm 111:7), and there is no darkness in Him at all (1 John 1:5). God is love. It’s not something He has or does; it’s what He is. God doesn’t do evil; He does love.

SEE ALSO: More Americans prone to depression as they opt to live alone: CDC study

God isn’t the creator of evil; He’s the creator of beauty, goodness, and truth. Evil, suffering, and death are the result of sin and humankind’s rebellion against their Creator, which fractured the cosmos. That isn’t to say that every specific thing we endure is our fault. The cosmos is fractured at both the macro and micro levels. Some suffering, maybe most suffering, flows from this reality. The cosmos is broken. It isn’t functioning as it was designed. We can know from the Scriptures that God isn’t the author of evil but the source of beauty, goodness, and truth.

With that said, here comes the paradox: God — in His sovereign reign over all things — holds all evil on a leash, including Satan, demons, and the brokenness of relationships that lead to sin and suffering. Nothing, not even the brokenness of the cosmos, is without boundaries and limits. Evil and suffering are not omnipotent. They don’t have the final say or authority. There’s more in this part of our paradox, but we need to talk about judo to help us understand.

In the martial art of judo, the goal is to use the momentum and strength of your opponent against them. To use their energy and output to ultimately defeat them. Not only does God set boundaries and limits on evil and suffering, but He uses evil and suffering against evil and suffering.

For almost 30 years, I’ve watched as followers of Jesus have been diagnosed with illness, killed in tragic accidents, and been on the receiving end of terrible tragedies. Yet, in almost every case, the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7) does its work, and those people begin to minister to others who are hurting. Where evil tried to destroy, God turned it on its head. He sovereignly redeems the suffering of His people by exposing idols, growing their faith and dependence, and granting them His presence in unique and beautiful ways.

Here is our paradox: God is sovereign over all things. God is good. God isn’t the author or cause of evil, yet when evil happens, regardless of cause, God can work things for our good and take the destructive hope of evil and redeem it.

Having pastored for more than 20 years, I have hundreds of questions about what I’ve just written. I’m sure you do too. These questions can haunt me at times. The “where was God …” or “why would God …” questions from people have felt almost too weighty for me to bear on more than one occasion. I don’t just think of these massive questions theoretically and divorced from their humanity. These questions involve actual faces and real tears. The questions are cried or screamed or whimpered into the heavens. How are we to make sense of it all?

In the last five chapters of the book of Job, we see that there are things we won’t be able to comprehend as finite, created beings that God, in His infinite power and wisdom, can. He is good.

Look to Jesus. Watch Him as He reveals the kingdom of God. See His power over disease and death, His restoring power over tragedy and loss, His tears for the world’s brokenness, and His power to do something about it. This is the kingdom expanding in every direction, whether we see it or not.

This is why darkness and pain are thrashing about. They’re losing ground. They are trying to make one last stand in a cosmic war that has already been won.

Jesus knows that it might still be hard for us to understand all the pain, suffering, and death in the world and how to reconcile that with God being all-powerful, so He continues to peel back the curtain of reality to help us understand His grace and His just judgment.

This is an adaptation from Matt Chandler’s book “The Overcomers: God’s Vision for You to Thrive in an Age of Anxiety and Outrage.”

Matt Chandler is a husband, father, pastor, elder, and author whose greatest desire is to make much of Jesus. He has served over 20 years as the Lead Pastor at The Village Church in Flower Mound, TX, which recently transitioned its five campuses into their own autonomous churches. He is also the Executive Chairman of the Acts 29 Network, a large church planting community that trains and equips church planters across the globe. 

Matt is known around the world for proclaiming the gospel in a powerful and down-to-earth way and enjoys traveling to share the message of Jesus whenever he can. He lives in Texas with his beautiful wife, Lauren, and their three children, Audrey, Reid, and Norah.  

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