If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you soon learn that has a believer, you aren’t supposed to be worrying. Worrying is a pronouncement of a lack of faith – if you believe that God is sovereign and that He is working everything out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Ro. 8:28), than worrying is simply nonsense. It’s when we don’t truly believe this, when our confidence in this truth is belied by feelings of uncertainty over things we can’t control, that worrying takes place.
However, what can complicate this matter is that there are things in life that we legitimately look forward to, and sometimes there is a fine line between anxiety and anticipation. As we gaze forward to the path that the Lord seems to be leading us on, we are tempted to start being anxious about whether the journey will lead to the desired destination. As God gives us good gifts, we worry about whether the gifts will last. Something that starts as blessing can be used by our enemy to shake our confidence in our loving Father.
So how do we know when the scale has been tipped? How do we know when anticipation has been replaced by anxiety? Here are three ways:
1) Anxiety focuses on what happens; Anticipation focuses on Who does the work. – When we’re anxious we are looking at “what’s next?” Our constant focus is on what’s going to happen to us. Anticipation looks to the God who is working on behalf of His children. Our eyes are focused upward, not on the world that’s around us. When we were eagerly anticipating what God has in store, our trust is in Him. Therefore the question isn’t “what’s next?” but “What is God going to do next?” with a confidence that regardless of the response, He is trustworthy and true.
2) Anxiety is concerned with the details; Anticipation is concerned with the design – When I’m anxious over something, I’m concerned with the details of what will occur – how will things work out, who will be affected, what will life be like afterwards? When I’m living in anticipation of God’s work, my concern is for how what happens conforms to God’s design for my life – to honor and bring glory to Him. Living with confidence that God’s people will see His goodness in the land of the living, I can eagerly anticipate how He will bring this about in my own life, and the lives of His other children.
3) Anxiety looks for control; Anticipation looks to give praise – When I’m worrying about a situation it’s because I want to have control over things that I can’t. I want to dictate the future and not let the course of outcomes be placed in God’s hand. Anticipation, however, looks forward knowing that whatever happens, God desires that I use the circumstance to bring Him glory. When I live in anticipation of what God is going to do, I also live in anticipation of the future opportunities to praise Him for the work that He has and will continue do.
It can be hard to look forward without being anxious, but the Christian can look forward with anticipation because we have confidence in the One who is doing the work, we know the purpose of His design, and we know that regardless of what happens, we will have cause to give Him praise. Ultimately, we also know that whatever happens on this Earth, the future of His children is secure, and therefore there was never any reason for anxiety anyway.