Anxiety and the Things that Cannot be Shaken

I recently heard an anecdotal definition of anxiety: the feeling we get when something we love is threatened. Which begs the question, what do we love?

Anxiety and the Things that Cannot be Shaken

Shortly after, while listening to an exposition of the last part of Hebrews 12, I was impressed by the fact that God will shake the world until only the things which cannot be shaken remain. Which begs another question, what cannot be shaken?

And, in putting two and two together, I realized that this is the strength of the Christian in the face of anxiety.

There are things, the most essential things, that cannot be threatened or shaken, and we are the possessors of these things. They are sure and secure. Anxiety cannot reach us in relation to these things, and we do well to tether our affections there. The eternal, the things associated with God’s presence with us and His kingdom for us, are beyond the reach of the enemy and the threat of the temporal.

When we focus on these things, we feel assurance rather than anxiety. When all the things that can be shaken are stripped away, and we are left with only these essentials, we realize that we are untouchable, unassailable, and utterly secure in the Lord.

Unshakeable Things Displayed at the Cross

The things that cannot be shaken are seen most clearly at the cross.

The cross reminds us that the love of God for us is so immense, so intense, and so intact, that He was willing to give the Lord Jesus in order to redeem us back to Himself. The first unshakeable message of the cross, something that can never be threatened, something we can never lose, is God’s love for us.

The circumstances of the cross also impress upon us the fact that, though there is freedom in this world God has created, God is always in control. When we are threatened and shaken, we wonder if anything will remain and who can preserve us, and the answer is clear. God is always on the throne. This is an anchor in the storm of human freedom that surrounds us.

We also find in the cross the classic storyline of our God . . . that God can take the worst and the darkest things and turn them into eternal good. Often in the midst of the shaking, we are consumed by the darkness, threatened by the impossibility and hopelessness of our situation. But God proves over and over in His Word, that “it isn’t over ‘til it’s over”. We must wait for God to bring the story to completion . . . wait for His redemptive power to transform what to us appears unredeemable. Our God knows how to transform the hopeless into something beautiful, and He does this in His time while we wait and watch expectantly.

And finally, we see in the cross that God paints on a canvas bigger than we can see or understand. God knows the end from the beginning, and He will have His way. He knows our limitations and tells us that He understands our frailty and our weakness . . . we simply cannot grasp the immensity of His overarching plans that will, without doubt, be fulfilled completely.

The infinite power and knowledge and love of God are the anchor for our soul that cannot be shaken. When everything around us is threatened, when the shaking is overwhelming us, we can cling to a God who doesn’t always change the circumstances but always has a purpose in every circumstance. We can rest in knowing that He will never let go of us.

“Now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:26-29 NIV).

Responding to the Shakeable Things in our Lives

But what of the things I love that can be shaken? What of the anxiety I feel when these shakeable things are threatened?

It is helpful to remember that these things fall into the category of shakeable things for a reason . . . they are not essential. Though we may not want to, we can live without them. The Lord gives them, and He can certainly take them away, and we can still bless His name if our affections and perspectives are anchored in His eternal and unshakeable things.

But the Bible speaks to our anxieties in relation to these shakeable things and encourages us to respond in a faithful, rather than a faithless, way. When we feel this anxiety, when we know there is a threat looming in relation to things we hold dear, we are told to go to God in prayer and tell Him, so that His peace may rest upon us.

The faithless response is to frantically grasp for control, collapse into resignation, or muster all our resources in order to stoically endure. In all of these responses, we rob God of caring for us as a Heavenly Father while we fold into ourselves and our own abilities to preserve what we feel we cannot live without.

We can become very “entitled” and rage at God for not giving us the things He never promised to give us, when He actually promised to give us the opposite. The Lord tells us to expect suffering, persecution, rejection, discomfort, and loss in relation to shakeable things. Comfort, health, freedom, a superficial sense of happiness and well-being – these all have the potential to replace the true and lasting, untouchable things and to steal our affections, turning themselves into idols.

However, He promises that, in the middle of all the shaking we may be called to experience, we belong to an unshakeable kingdom and He will never leave us or forsake us. This can be enough. This is peace in the storm that cannot be taken away.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. But there are some things that will never be taken away. Tether your affections here, and commit the rest of those shakeable things in your life to the Lord. May His eternal peace rest upon you.