Apply Providence to Alleviate Anxiety

Dear Saints,

The elders and I often find ourselves marveling over God’s providence in how so many things each Lord’s Day work together without our planning it.  The Sabbath School lesson (including for the children) and the Psalm devotion in the morning so often relate perfectly to where we are in the sermon text that day.  We believe these “coincidences” are a confirmation that Christ is in the midst of His Church and working even through all the little details because He cares so much about us.

So I’ve been blessed on how much a recent study Mike Delgado and I are having through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion has spoken so meaningfully to the topic that Elder Huffmaster has just begun in the Adult Sabbath School with John MacArthur’s book on anxiety (I just ordered it to follow along — if you’d like to get a copy, click here).  We read what I will share below the same week of the beginning of this new Sabbath School topic, so it really stood out how timely it was to “just happen” to be on this chapter in the Institutes.

Chapter 17 in Book One of Calvin’s Institutes is focused on applying the doctrine of providence to our own great benefit in progressing through and coping with the woes of our earthly pilgrimage:

  • ” … pious and holy meditation on providence … from this we may receive the best and sweetest fruit …” (Section 6)
  • “Gratitude of mind for the favorable outcome of things, patience in adversity, and also incredible freedom from worry about the future all necessarily follow upon this knowledge.” (Section 7)
  • ” … he will always hold his mind fixed upon God’s providence alone, and not let preoccupation with present matters draw him away from steadfast contemplation of it.” (Section 9)
  • “Hence appears the immeasurable felicity of the godly mind.” (Section 10)
  • ” … when that light of divine providence has once shone upon a godly man, he is then relieved and set free not only from extreme anxiety and fear that were pressing him before, but from every care.”
  • ” … if you pay attention, you will easily perceive that ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness likes in the knowledge of it.” [Bold, GVL]

That last line applies to the emphasis of the whole chapter, as does a quote I’d like to share next that I “just happened upon” yesterday.  See that we need to apply the knowledge of providence by meditation so that we personally bless our souls with rest from worry:

“Anxiety is the rust of life, destroying its brightness and weakening its power.–A childlike and abiding trust in Providence is its best preventive and remedy.” — Tryon Edwards

Equally providential is what Calvin says in this chapter about part of our text for tomorrow’s sermon (Genesis 45:1-15):

“If anything adverse happens, straightway he will raise up his heart here also unto God, whose hand can best impress patience and peaceful moderation of mind upon us.  If Joseph had stopped to dwell upon his brothers’ treachery, he would never have been able to show a brotherly attitude toward them.  But since he turned his thoughts to the Lord, forgetting the injustice, he inclined to gentleness and kindness, even to the point of comforting his brothers and saying: ‘It is not you who sold me into Egypt, but I was sent before you by God’s will, that I might save your life” [Gen. 45:5, 7-8].  ‘Indeed you intended evil against me, but the Lord turned it into good.’ [Gen. 50:20] …

“If there is no more effective remedy for anger and impatience, he has surely benefited greatly who has so learned to meditate upon God’s providence that he can always recall his mind to this point:  the Lord has willed it; therefore it must be borne, not only because one may not contend against it, but also because he wills nothing but what is just and expedient.  To sum this up: when we are unjustly wounded by men, let us overlook their wickedness (which would but worsen our pain and sharpen our minds to revenge), remember to mount up to God, and learn to believe for certain that whatever our enemy has wickedly committed against us was permitted and sent by God’s just dispensation.” (Section 8).

Hear Jesus, beloved:

  • “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for [don’t worry about] your life … ” (Mat 6:25).
  • “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalms 55:22)
  • “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:6)
  • “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

You might sum up this devotion of focusing on providence and enjoying the fruit of such meditation with the title of a sermon Elder Huffmaster once preached: “Don’t Worry, Be Thankful”.

If you would like to read this chapter on the Institutes in full, click here (we also have quite a few copies of the Institutes in our library for your benefit; notice if you like, you also can download all the Institutes for free at this site in various digital forms; there are few resources that are better worth your devotional study time).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant