Connecting the Dots...

Believing the Truth so that we can know (John 6:69).

6/25/2021 4:47:04 AM

Combatting Anxiety Part 3

8/7/2017

 Thus far, we’ve looked at the facts on the stress reducing aspects of meditation and the integration of Christian faith. Your stress levels are directly related to who or what you put your trust in. We have also suggested that the ultimate faith object is the God of the Bible. He never changes. Today, I’d like to take this concept a bit further in our effort to combat stress.

Let’s start by asking a simple question. If you are going to make God the focus of your concentration, does it matter what comes to mind when you think of God?

 About a decade ago Baylor University conducted a national survey on the way Americans viewed God. Here is what they found:

 23% of those polled viewed God as loving and benevolent

32% viewed God as an authoritarian

16% viewed God as being hyper-critical

24% viewed God as being stand-offish or distant

5% claimed to be atheist[1]

 Does it matter which of these views a person subscribes to when it comes to anxiety? Glad you asked! A University of Pennsylvania study confirmed that all forms of contemplative meditation were associated with positive brain changes—but the greatest improvements occurred when participants meditated specifically on a God of love. Meditation that focused on the chief attribute of God’s love was associated with positive growth in the part of the brain that controls reason and decision making (prefrontal cortex). Subsequently, participants who focused on a God of love experienced an increased capacity for personal empathy, sympathy, compassion and altruism. And there is more. Not only did these participants expand their capacity to consider the needs of others above their own, but also on a personal level, they experienced measured increases in IQ and memory retention! Meditating on the God of the Bible, who declares he is love (1 John 4:8) actually stimulates the brain to heal and grow!![2]

Yes. What you believe to be the nature of God does matter when it comes to your focused thought and meditation. So what do you know or think you know about God? Maybe you know little other than what you were told by adults when you were a child. Maybe you consider yourself a theologian and are frustrated with me for ignoring the other aspects of God’s character like holiness, justice, etc. But what concept of God, when contemplated, reduces anxiety? God’s love. God loves you. It’s true.

Now to be fair, even though God declares himself to be “Love”, he is not exclusively tied to that sole attribute. But let me point out that the primary attribute of God’s character is consistently revealed as love to those who have ultimately put their faith in him through Jesus Christ. So let’s talk about faith again for a moment. Faith not only depends on your faith object; but faith also depends on what you believe to be true about your faith object. Consider the amount of anxiety reducing good news in the following passage from the Bible.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  (Romans 5:1-5 ESV).

I will let you think—meditate on that passage for a while. It’s guaranteed to reduce your stress. ;)

So, as you look to direct your attention toward God as the focus of you meditation, be sure that you are increasing your accurate knowledge of God.  And start by understanding that God is love (1 John 4:8). If a loving God is hard for you to imagine, then start by studying Jesus. He is the incarnation of God Himself (John 1:1-3). When you study Jesus you will begin to see that, indeed, God is love. When you give yourself over to that concept, it will put you at ease, expand your faith heal your mind and even begin to make you more of a loving person.  More to come…

[1] “Losing My Religion? No, Says Baylor Religion Survey,” Baylor University Media Communications, Sept 11, 2006, www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=41678

[2] Newburg, A., Waldman, R.M. How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a leading Neuroscientist (New York: Random House, 2009), pp. 27-32 53.