Reframe – Building Spiritual Grit
Pastor Sam Tidball – September 13, 2020
Reframing our Anxiety: Building Spiritual Grit
Hello Church! Welcome to our Reframe series. We have been talking about reframing our anxiety. Pastor Donnell preached last week about reframing our anxiety by surrendering our future worries to the Lord through obedience. This week I am preaching about reframing our anxiety to build spiritual grit (perseverance, relentlessness in faith).
I have a feeling I am not alone when I say that I have been extremely anxious lately. 2020 has been an overwhelming year for everyone. I know for me personally my anxiety is higher right now more than it has been since the pandemic started because online school just started. I have some really big feelings about this, because with young kids not only does this take a lot of work on my end, but I am devastated for my kids and myself to miss out on the gift of in person community and the village it brings along side our family to help raise our kids. I am also anxious and in despair about the racial injustice in our nation, the polarizing politics that are causing divisiveness in families and communities, and the upcoming election in just a few months.
There’s much to be anxious about! My anxiety along with a chronic illness has taken me on quite a journey over the past few years where I have been digging into what it means as a person of faith to wrestle with anxiety and how am I supposed to handle my despair when life doesn’t go as planned. You can here more of this story from my March 22 sermon “I am the Vine”. This week, I wanted to share with you what God has been teaching me through my anxiety and despair. I used to spend time avoiding anxious feelings and doing whatever I could to avoid feelings of despair. God has been teaching me the opposite actually. I have been learning to embrace these feelings. We don’t have to let anxiousness and despair ruin or rule our lives. In fact, we can reframe how we think of anxiety, we will see the possibility of how God can redeem it to help build spiritual grit in our lives. What does it look like to have spiritual grit?
Spiritual grit is choosing to stay obedient and faithful to God when the going gets tough. This doesn’t mean we don’t experience doubt, but it means we trust in God’s goodness even when we can’t see any good around us. It’s honestly pretty easy to trust in Christ when things are going well… when we get the job we wanted, the house we never thought we would have, a friend is healed from an illness, or that last pumpkin muffin was ours on the shelf of Panera. It’s when life doesn’t go as planned when we typically struggle to follow God. This is when anxiety sets in, when the fear overwhelms us.
When life doesn’t go as planned leading to disappointment and despair, sometimes people walk away from their faith or blame God for their misery. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The apostle Paul knows what it takes to have spiritual grit. Paul teaches us to reframe our disappointment, our hardships, and our suffering.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us – Romans 5:1-5
Paul reframes suffering. Instead of suffering as something to be feared, Paul explains we can embrace it as a tool that can refine us, build us, strengthen us to develop character. Anxiety can be seen the same way. It’s the anticipation of suffering.
What if we reframed our anxiety as a tool that God can use for good? I have been reading this book “The Anxious Christian” by Rhett Smith, a therapist and a seminary graduate. He talks about anxiety:
“What if anxiety is God in your midst and God wants you to pay attention to it? He wants you to listen to it. In that anxiety God might be calling you forth out of that false sense of safety and into stage by stage journey where he wants to help you grow.”
Rhett goes as far as to say that God is the one who gave us anxiety. I reject this, but I do believe that God can use our anxiety for good when it perhaps was intended to paralyze us with fear. I love this idea how Rhett Smith invites us to reframe the way we look at anxiety and our despair through a spiritual lens we can see it not as something to be feared, but something to lean into.
Leaning into anxiety may look like asking questions when we feel it rising up vs stuffing it back down.
Why is my anxiety elevated in this moment?
What do I need to hand over to the Lord?
What can my anxiety reveal about my fears, insecurities, and worries? Once those things are revealed the unknowns can’t haunt us. We no longer have to expend all the energy trying to push down our fears and insecurities under the surface. We can expose them, and ask God what we can learn from it all so that we are strengthened. What if we viewed it as an opportunity that the Holy Spirit is at work in us producing perseverance and strengthening our character, building our spiritual grit for lasting faith.
Spiritual grit is built when we learn to embrace our anxiety and our disappointment instead of fearing them. We spend so much of our energy trying to protect ourselves from feeling disappointed. Instead the Apostle Paul goes as far as to say we should glory in our sufferings! I am not asking you to throw confetti in the air when life doesn’t go as planned, but instead to pause… and pay attention to how the Holy Spirit is at work in your life in the midst of suffering, your despair, and your worries.
This brings me to a story in the Bible in John 21 where the disciple’s dreams were shattered at the crucifixion. Their Messiah, their friend, their teacher, the one they thought would bring salvation and deliverance was now dead. Instead of carrying on Jesus’ mission, what did the disciples do in their despair? They went back to fishing and weren’t even catching anything.
They set out in a boat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus.
5 Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
6 He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far from shore, only about one hundred yards.
9 When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you’ve just caught.” 11 Simon Peter got up and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so many fish. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Building spiritual grit (spiritual perseverance and lasting faithfulness) involves reframing how we view the character of God. This story illustrates a beautiful picture of how Jesus meets us in our disappointment. Here we have the disciples their hopes and dreams crushed of who they thought the Messiah was. Their plans of a conquering King coming to deliver them pulled out from under them. To say they were disappointed would be an understatement. Once Peter realizes the man on the shore is actually Jesus notice what he does. He puts on his cloak (since he was naked) and then leaps off the boat to swim toward Jesus. Peter was attempting to cover up perhaps because he felt shame. Are we that different? When you have experienced anxiety or disappointment have you ever felt shame follow with those feelings? I know I have, and I think it’s because I have heard Christian teachings telling saying things like: if you feel fear, or anxiousness or hopelessness you are less of a Christian or your faith is weak because you aren’t trusting God! When you are already in a place of despair and then you lavish on the shameful feelings and the judgment it just brings on more disappointment.
How do you see you see God? Is God shaming you for your anxiety? Maybe that’s really the voice of the accuser. How does Jesus respond to the disciples after they are full of despair and back to fishing instead of living out the mission? Jesus makes them breakfast! My love language is food, not only food but breakfast food! Here we have Jesus making them breakfast AND meeting them in their disappointment by providing for them more fish than they could even haul in the boat. I just imagine Jesus laughing a little bit when he asks, “Have you caught anything to eat?” Knowing their despair not just of the lack of fish, but their despair in a plan that is now lost. I see Jesus laughing as he sees their faces light up attempting to pull up all these fish. I see him smiling with joy as Peter is thrashing in the water swimming toward him. I see him serving them breakfast with a warm and tender heart. Did Jesus shame them in their despair? No. He made them freaking breakfast!
If you think God is disappointed in you or shaming you when you are anxious or in despair, than you need to reframe how you see God. If your feelings of despair and disappointment lead you to believe you are failing at life or are not strong enough to handle what life throws at you… perhaps you need to reframe how you see yourself as a created image bearer of the most Holy.
Some practical advice I have for you on building spiritual grit and lasting faith is to pay attention to your inner voice. The more I grow in my faith and in closeness with Jesus the more I recognize when the Holy Spirit is speaking to me. When I was younger the voice of the accuser is what I listened to the most. When I would feel anxious about things or run into despair I would hear things like…
“You are going to fail. You have already failed big and there’s no way to fix it.”
“You are so weak. You can’t handle this.”
“Everything is up to you. If you don’t do this thing everything will crumble.”
“You are not good enough or smart enough.
How could you fail again? You are a disappointment.”
The more I grow and matured in my faith I have had to learn to reframe how I see God and how God sees me. I am better able to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit. When crap hits the fan in life, this is actually when I tend to hear the voice the most. Sometimes the voice sounds like a mother soothing me after a hard time, other times the voice is more like a coach reminding me not to give up.
The voice says, “You are not alone.”
“You have been through hard things before and you can do it again because I am beside you.”
“You are made of tough and holy stuff!”
“You are stronger than you realize. You can do this! Don’t give up!”
“You are holy and loved beyond measure! I delight in you.”
What does your inner voice say to you? Is the inner voice accusing and shaming you? Or is the inner voice encouraging you, coaching you, soothing you? I tell my teenagers often, God only speaks Holy words about you. If your inner voice is accusing you and filling you with shame and you think that’s the voice of God, perhaps it’s time to reframe who God is to you and your idea of who God created you to be. Incase you can’t hear the voice of truth in your head listen up now.
You are holy. You are created by the Divine. You are valuable and loved beyond measure. You are made of tough stuff. God has got you through hard times before and God will do it again.
2020 we are tired, swimming against the current, the water is cold and deep. You want to give up, your muscles ache, your skin is numb, you aren’t sure if you are going to make it. You feel alone. Then suddenly you realize you can touch the sandy bottom. You crawl onto shore. Jesus reaches out a hand, he smiles and delights in you, and he says, “Come! Sit with me by the warm fire. I made you breakfast.”
Reframe how you see anxiety and despair in your life by viewing it as a tool God can use to strengthen and develop you with spiritual grit!
Building spiritual grit (spiritual perseverance and lasting faithfulness) involves reframing how we view the character of God and our relationship to God.