Text Anxiety

Raise your hand if you experience recurrent dreams about taking a test in a class for which you have not prepared. I have both hands raised. My dream involves sitting down to take a college final for a class that I had registered for, but never attended. Somehow I forgot, and now I am staring at the final with no clue about what to write. I hear from my alumni friends that this type of test anxiety dream is common. I’m sorry to tell you that you never stop having test anxiety, even if your last college exam was many (many!) decades ago.

Tests often make us feel unprepared. Even when we did attend class and study hard, the possibility of failure looms large in our minds when we open up the exam and read the first question.

I once completely froze in seminary when my Systematic Theology final included a question that asked “Who is God, and how do you know?” I know the professor expected a lengthy response quoting the various theologians we had studied all semester. We were supposed to defend our thesis with solid theories and attributions. All my brain could conjure up was, “God is love. I know, because the Bible tells me so.” At the end of the hour, it was all I had. Luckily, I had a strong A going into the final and the professor could not argue with my position, so I ended up all right. But even writing about that moment makes my heart flutter!

James 1 (Common English Bible)


My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. 

Tests as occasions for joy?? Speaking for myself, that is a big ask! Let’s read on…

After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. 

This is a beautiful answer to our test anxiety issues. Tests produce endurance and endurance leads us to maturity, completeness, and WISDOM. And isn’t wisdom the goal? James contended that all we need to do is ask for wisdom and God will certainly give it. I should have asked for some when I took that final!

Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways.

We know that doubt is often a gateway to learning, so what James may be suggesting is that we are not supposed to get stuck in our doubts. We should never doubt that God will answer us if we seek him. When our questioning minds lead us to further inquiry and wisdom-seeking, we come through it better prepared to understand. But stubbornly remaining in doubt can result in tossing and turning and never moving forward in our understanding.

Are you caught in a sea of doubt? Are you unsure of your faith? Does the idea of being tested in your relationship with God bring you anxiety? James invites us to persevere in our pursuit of wisdom as we grow in our knowledge of who we are, and Whose we are.

We are the children of God…of that, we can be sure. The rest will sort itself out if we continue to study and learn.

And guess what? You’ve already passed your finals…Jesus took them on your behalf.

Tossed and Turned by the Wind by Michelle Robertson

Speechless

This obviously is a topic I know nothing about.

Have you ever had something happen that was so profound that it rendered you speechless? Like, literally not able to make words or even syllables come out of your mouth? Yeah, me neither. But we do know that it can happen to some people when a unexpected surprise comes along suddenly and without warning.

Zachariah experienced speechlessness. Not just for a moment, but for many, many months. He received the unexpected news from an angel that he and his wife (both “long in tooth and older than the hills”) were expecting a baby. Elizabeth had waited all of her life for a child, but was barren through her child-bearing years. Now, in her geriatric phase, she was suddenly pregnant. What the heck? The news was so startling, it took her breath, and Zachariah’s voice, away:

Luke 1 (The Message)

18 Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”

19-20 But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”

AHA! So it was the angel who took Zachariah’s voice away! Seems a little harsh, no? In the presence of an angel, in the moment of an unbelievable proclamation, the aged priest expressed his incredulity. That seems fair and reasonable, doesn’t it?

In Matthew Henry’s commentary, he explains it simply: “His unbelief was silenced.” That simple statement helps us to see it a different way. Zachariah was a man of influence, a temple priest. Were he to use his pulpit to brag, embellish, or publicly express doubt about the whole thing, the truth of Elizabeth’s pregnancy would always remain in question. As we know, pulpit-holders are held to a higher accountability:

Titus 1 (The Message)

5-9 Appoint leaders in every town according to my instructions. As you select them, ask, “Is this man well-thought-of? Is he committed to his wife? Are his children believers? Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?” It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry.

He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it.

And in fact, Zachariah’s speech was not returned to him until he wrote on a tablet, “His name is John,” as the angel had instructed him to do. With this sentence he confirmed the truth of John’s miraculous conception and affirmed John’s place in the story as the one who came to prepare the way for the Messiah, who was also miraculously conceived.

Maybe you woke up this morning and had second thoughts about something. Perhaps a moment of unbelief has come upon you in a difficult situation. You may be having doubts about God’s presence in your mess. God won’t render you speechless, but he most certainly will come to you in the quietness of your contemplation in a “Be still, and know that I am God” moment.

Know today that you are in good company. All of us, at one time or another, question God’s activity and wonder what the heck is going on. We retreat into the silence of our own thoughts, seeking out the spirit and finding him there.

In times like these, it is good to remember the miracles of Christmas. Each one had to be waited for, and each came in their own time…God’s time. So in your doubt, remember to look up, look out, and look for a sign. God is here, Emmanuel, and he came to save. You can count on it.

Look up. God is here. By Becca Ziegler