A low-level trepidation plagued the rich, young ruler. Esteemed by his peers, respected by his subjects, obedient from a young age, he exuded propriety. Yet his anxious soul agonized daily, searching desperately for an anecdote to his unrest.
Hearing a miracle-working Rabbi was traveling to his region, he determined to meet Him.
As he approached the scene, his pristine appearance parted the crowd appropriately. He strode with an air of confidence, though his insides contorted in dis-ease. Amid a sea of expectant faces, he addressed the Rabbi, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “…If you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”
“I’ve obeyed all the commandments,” he replied. “What else must I do?”
Looking at him, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is one thing you haven’t done. Go, sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then follow me.”
When the ruler heard this, he left despondently, for his wealth was great. (Matt. 19 & Mark 10)
In his efforts to earn right standing, he lost his way. His priorities—accumulating wealth and significance the world’s way—produced great worth, prestige and success, yet unrest besieged his soul. In search of relief, he hoped for either approval or a short to-do list.
When faced with truth, his tightened grip on wealth left him eternally empty-handed.
2011 marked the first double-digit spike in anxiety, depression and suicide. We experience more anxiety than ever in modern history, yet Jesus knew this just wasn’t a 1st or 21st Century issue, but a universal soul problem.
From this well-intentioned ruler’s encounter with Jesus, I discovered 2 profound truths for my anxious soul.
1. Works-based living creates soul anxiety.
A garage sale and a nomad’s life—was this Jesus’ answer for every afflicted, wealthy soul? No, Jesus’ answers were as unique as the person before Him.
Jesus didn’t merely “look at him.” The Greek word looking means to “discern clearly.”
Jesus saw past appearances to the secret sin hijacking his soul, and for this man, relinquishing his grasp on wealth would bring soul rest in his true identity and purpose: a son of the King.
Reflecting on this narrative, I considered—what am I gripping too tightly? I discovered my soul’s anxiety in my ultimate desire to control circumstances, both mine and others.
The anxious soul is a downward spiral of the unchecked overburdened soul.
My family has endured considerable stress the past few years, and my desire for security and relief ran wild, plunging me from overburdened to anxious living. Like the young ruler, it’s a trust issue. I believe my plans are better, so I work to earn God’s favor. If I pray enough, try hard enough, have it all together—God will bless us.
Let’s make a deal, God.
But Jesus has a better way.
2. Resting in Jesus’ plans brings peace to my anxious soul.
“Jesus looked on the man with genuine love for him.” He didn’t look with judgment or condemnation, but love!
Jesus alone meets the deepest needs of any soul.
When I attempt to satisfy my deepest needs the world’s way, anxiety infiltrates peace. His way far surpasses any counterfeit found in pursuit of worldly security and significance.
Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. I won’t lay anything ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live free and lightly.” Matt. 11:29-30
Jesus was contrasting the oppressive burdens of the Pharisees and His unforced rhythms of grace. There is no comparison because when we yoke ourselves with Him, He shares our burden, making it light and easy. That’s the purpose of a yoke!
What kind of King does that? A servant King. And a conquering One! He did all the work, so we need not strive, but rest.
When anxiety rises, I can preach His truth to my soul, reminding myself of who He is, and who He says I am.
Some days are better than others. Many times, I allow my circumstances too much power, hijacking my mind. If left unchecked, my soul quickly follows.
I’ve reflected on these questions to check my soul status.
- Does stress accompany most decisions?
- Am I people-pleasing to avoid conflict?
- Is worry my MO?
- Do I regularly desire escape—numbing with Netflix, alcohol, food or scrolling?
- Do I struggle with sleep?
- Does time on social media cause scrolling-envy?
- Does comparison rob me of connection?
- Are my emotions all over the map?
- Is prayer often my last resort?
Are you, like me, combating an anxious soul from chronic stress, hurry or control-seeking?
What one step can you take this week towards Jesus’ gentle and lowly heart beating for you? Maybe a short walk in nature, a few moments in His Word, or prayer with a friend?
Like the young ruler, He offers a better path. Choosing the light and easy way, we find true soul-rest!
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts… and lead me in your everlasting way. Psalm 139:2