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This book has been brewing in my mind for over a decade.

The ideas were forming as I counseled, traveled and spoke to churches across the globe. My primary goal was to find a way to encourage people that change was possible and what they needed was a way of connecting the lines between their daily struggles and their relationship with God.

In the fall or 2016, I was invited to teach a class on worry at Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church. Near the middle of the class, I had been mulling over Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and the thought occurred to give the class “steps” they could take to grow in grace. Soon after that class, a series of blogs began to take form that eventually shaped this book.

In late 2017, the final stage came as I reconnected with The Good Book Company and pitched the idea of a book on change that was short, accessible yet nuanced enough to capture more complex struggles. They accepted and provided an excellent editor, Rachel Jones, who gave wise feedback through every iteration of each chapter.

My hope is that this short book would be read by individuals, couples, families and churches. But I would also love to see it used in one-on-one discipleship relationships, as well as a foundational supplement for counselors as you seek to help others grow in grace.

Thank you to each and every person who had a shaping influence on this book.

Tim Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Is Worry A Sin?

“Is worry a sin?” This is one of the most asked questions I hear whenever I am speaking or teaching on the subject of worry and anxiety. I would like to begin my answer to that question by sharing a simple example from my own experience.

My Own Experience with Anxiety

When I completed my most recent book on worry in 2015, I was invited by the publisher to do a book tour in the UK. As I prepared for the trip, I found myself getting more anxious. In fact, the day that I was to fly from Atlanta to London, my lower back muscles contracted as I was bending over to put on my socks! I immediately knew what was happening – my low-grade anxiety about the trip was creating physiological symptoms. I was experiencing muscular tension, and one little move caused my lower back to seize up. How ironic that my preparation to travel to speak about my new book on anxiety was creating an occasion to become anxious!

Thankfully, my wife was able to get me to a doctor that day. When we arrived, the doctor said that he could help provide immediate relief but it meant giving me several shots into my lower back muscles to stop the spasms. I became even more anxious because I hate the thought and the sight of needles, even when they are going to be used on someone else! As he began his procedure he spoke very calming words. “Tim, this will not hurt much. You will only feel an initial prick of the needle. When I am finished, you will be able to move about freely.” While he was speaking these words, my wife had her hand on my shoulder and was comforting me as she knew I was in great pain and had a flight to catch in just a few hours. Her words and actions of comfort, along with the doctor’s, helped me tremendously as he gave me the shot. I did not know it at the time, but he actually gave me about 5-6 shots in about 15 seconds!

I know that this illustration may seem rather trivial, but it does illustrate my point and helps to answer the question, “Is worry a sin?” I want to address this question by highlighting 4 things:

1. The Tone of the Command

First, when Jesus, Peter and Paul admonish us to “not worry,” it is important to capture the tone of the command. None of these writers are seeking to shame or guilt us in the midst of our worry. Each speaks in ways that are comforting and encouraging. They all know very well the brokenness of this world and our personal frailty as broken human beings. Their command to not worry is captured in a context of encouragement. Listen to just two examples. First, Jesus says this in Luke 12:32:

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.

The added words, “little flock,” connote tenderness, not guilt or shame. When Paul gives instruction about caring for fearful people, he says this in I Thessalonians 5:14:

Encourage the fearful.

Paul is following in the very incarnate footsteps of Jesus as he counsels us on how to help fearful, anxious people. He calls us to encourage them. Once again, there is no hint of shame or guilt in either Jesus’ or Paul’s words.

2. The Reason for the Command

Second, we can’t ignore the fact that Jesus, Peter and Paul do command us not to be afraid or anxious. There is something at stake in our tendency to worry. For Jesus, he knows that our tendency to worry strikes at the very heart of what we worship, treasure and adore. When we are worrying, it is due to the fact that we are seeking to find stability, strength and encouragement in someone or something other than him. This is no simple matter, and it grieves him that we would seek to find refuge in anything besides himself. It grieves him because he knows that he alone can truly meet us in the midst of our struggles.

His command is addressing a serious pivot away from him, but it is done in a way that calls us back to himself. The fact that he commands us is an indication that our tendency to stray is deeply problematic and destructive. That is why Jesus calls us to “seek first, his kingdom” when he calls us to move away from worry (Matthew 6:33). When we worry, we are becoming distracted in our loyalty to him alone and that can only lead to instability and fear on our part. He is never content for you to share your affection with someone or something else besides him. And he loves you too much to let you! His command is one of deep compassion for you, his child.

3. Suffering

Third, If you remember my own illustration, above, you can see that worry is often a combination of sin and suffering.

Let’s start with suffering. As I prepared for my flight and thought about the long travel, constant speaking and the unknown people and places I would be, I began to experience suffering in my body. The muscle tension was a form of suffering for which I needed wise and compassionate care. In this instance, I actually needed something to address the physiological symptoms of my anxiety right away. Often times, symptom relief is wholly appropriate and good. On many occasions, Jesus met the physical needs of those he cared for before he addressed their deeper needs. Christian compassion leads us to listen for the suffering in another person’s life. It calls us to take heed of the suffering in our own life. When we do, we are more patient, helpful and hopeful.

4. Sin

Fourth, let’s talk about sin. After the symptoms were relieved, I had to face some honest and helpful questions. “Why was I so anxious?” “What was I placing my trust in that caused me to feel so vulnerable?” “What mattered most to me that was causing me to feel fearful and worried?” In the context of being cared for by others, I was able to ask those questions and get below the surface of my anxiety and physiological symptoms.

As I thought about it, I discovered that a good bit of my anxiety was driven by my fear of what others might think of me as I presented my material on worry. Kind of ironic, huh?! I was worried about whether I would appear successful or whether I would fail. I also wondered if I had the strength to endure the rigorous speaking schedule and if I might say something stupid along the way. I found that I was also anxious about all of the details of my travel. Would I miss a train? Would I forget my notes? Would I arrive late to an event and not be as prepared as I would like?

In other words, I was revolving my life around another kingdom, not God’s. I was more enamored with my fame and less with God’s. This may sound harsh but in reality, it is! To seek my fame over God’s is a serious thing.

In Conclusion

Worry is often a combination of sin and suffering. It is important to understand what we mean by each. When you hear the word “sin,” it probably evokes images of high-handed disobedience. But sin is much more subtle than that. Sin is often a quiet, micro-moment when we shift our loyalty from God to something even good in creation. While it may be subtle, the destruction will become more apparent and visible as time goes by. That is why it can be so helpful to see it early on rather than later.

Living without worry
By Timothy Lane

So you can see where my anxiety was a subtle shift from God’s fame to mine. It happened slowly but certainly. As I worried more, I found that my shift from God’s fame to mine moved me into an experience of physically suffering. This physical suffering then increased my anxiety! The vicious spiral had begun. In the midst of seeing these dynamics, I could begin to face my anxiety, not with guilt or shame, but rather with confidence that Jesus really was with me and for me. He was tenderly calling me back to life in his kingdom and out of my own because he loved me. His command was one of compassion and wisdom. My hope and trust increased as I saw him in that way. Hopefully, as you struggle with worry, that will be true for you as well.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for you Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32)!

Previous posts in this series:

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

A Glass Half Full

When you look at this picture, do you see a glass half full or half empty? What about the way you view other people, especially other Christians?

I know, we don't want to be accused of going soft on total depravity, the reality of remaining sin and the temptation to exchange worship of the true God for something in creation. But we have more biblical categories to work with than those, as important as they are.

What about the following? We are made in God's image; the reality of the powerful work of regeneration and new life in Christ; the ongoing work of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer; the present intercession of Christ for his people; the bright promise of a changed life due to God's utter commitment to us? These biblical truths are equally important as we consider growth in grace and wise pastoral care and counseling with others. Let me make this very practical by sharing a counseling story with you.

John and Erin came to me for marriage counseling. They seemed like your average Christian couple, but that was not the case once I began to get to know them. Both of them had come from severely broken homes and had lived lives of confusion and self-destruction years before they had become Christians, met and married. Now they were telling me how hard it was for them to get along. They had several small children, were starting a business together and were trying to navigate ongoing extended family fall-out over a host of issues.

Here is what they saw and described:

  • We are not communicating and getting along.
  • We are constantly fighting with one another.
  • We are not working as a team.
  • We are such a poor example of a Christian marriage.
  • We are doing the same thing to our kids that was done to us.
  • Are we headed for a divorce just like our parents.
  • Does God really love us in light of the way we are responding to one another?

As they shared their story, I began to see what they were not able to see. Here is what I saw:

  • A married couple who were clearly professing Christians.
  • A couple who wanted their marriage to last.
  • A couple, though struggling to get along, were seeking outside help, again.
  • John really cared for Erin and wanted to encourage her.
  • Erin really care for John and wanted to encourage him.
  • Both were involved in a small group Bible study with other couples.
  • They were avid readers and listeners to podcasts that pointed them to Christ.
  • They had been married 8 years.
  • They loved their children and pointed them Christ.
  • They served others within the context of their church.
  • They longed to love their extended family well.

Those two lists couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to one another. Yet this is what is so typical when we are in the midst of a difficult season. There are two very different kinds of blind spots we can have in the midst of difficulty. One is to be in denial about our sin. Another is to be in denial about God’s grace at work in our lives.

Self-Examination

When most people consider the change process, they tend to start with the negative. What’s wrong with me? Why do I continue to do things that I should not do, and why don’t I do the things I should? The Apostle Paul struggled with this, too. In Romans 7:15 he says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” In another place, Paul knew very well his own sinful tendencies. That is why, in I Timothy 1:15, Paul says, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.

Paul was not afraid to speak candidly about his own struggles. He knew his own weakness and propensity to deal with the reality of remaining sin even though he was a Christian. No doubt, this ability to be honest about his own sin was grounded in the hope of the good news of the forgiveness of sins in Christ. You see how he connects the two in verse 15. Honesty about sin is equal to apprehending the work of Christ.

When you start to take a good look at your life, what is your tendency? Is it to think more highly of yourself or to beat yourself up? You are either blind so that you don’t see your sins and weaknesses, or you are preoccupied with your weaknesses, failures and sins so that you can’t see God’s present grace in your life. Paul is seeking to lead you in a different direction. He doesn’t want you to ignore either of these things. By doing this, you are more apt to see progress in your Christian life.

Ministry to Others

It does no one any good to go on ferocious sin and idol hunts in one’s life or the lives of others. Not only do they not help, they can seriously hurt people. Instead, we want to begin with marks of God’s work in our own life and in the lives of others. As I met with John and Erin, I had many opportunities to help them see where God was actually powerfully working in their marriage and family. It wasn’t a completed, pretty picture, but it was a masterpiece in the making by God’s grace.

Remember, if you are a Christian, you have God’s Spirit at work in your life. You can always find places where he is at work; just like John and Erin. And you can find ways that he is at work in others, too.

Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Addiction and Family

My Granddaddy's Anvil

My Granddaddy's Anvil

No family can escape the reality of addiction. Yet, we all act embarrassed and struggle with shame when the truth is uncovered. Even today, with so much attention paid to addictions and the attempt to normalize it, it still remains the scarlet "A" of a family's identity.

Take a moment and think of the number of people that you know who either struggle with an addiction or have family members who do. Talk to your parents or grandparents and see how far back the history goes. If you pay attention, you will find it everywhere.

My mother's dad was an alcoholic in a small southern town. This was back in the 40's and 50's when the church was the center of social life for the majority of people. Forty some odd years later, she reflected upon that time in her life and her family's life. She captures the complexities and ambiguities in this poem written in 1985. I was visiting my parents and sister a month ago and my mom read this poem to me. She said that I could share it with you. Enjoy, ponder, weep, and be sobered as you wrestle with your own "addictions." Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

Hammering

My mom knew the cadence
of my daddy’s hammering.
The ring of the hammer against steel
broke the hush of the summer day
and echoed over the valley
behind the Mills house, 
down Church Street, 
and up to the high porch
of the old Minkovitz duplex
where we lived on one side, 
the Slappeys on the other.
“That’s Arrie hammering,” 
she would say.  
Anne Ria and I, sitting cross-legged
on the porch playing with paper dolls, 
would stop and listen.
Later when I’d hear the sound, 
I’d say, 
“That’s my daddy hammering.”
That was before I became ashamed
he was my father.
Even now I recall that time, 
hear the shrill peal of metal on metal, 
see my dad striking the red hot tool on the anvil, 
shaping, molding it expertly
as he was somehow unable to do with his own life, 
sending a clear bell-like message across the town
while his voice was silent.
What hurt, what loss, what fears
was he trying to assuage with the pounding?
I didn’t always wonder.

JoAnn Lane
11/04/85

Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane

If you or someone you know struggles with an addiction, here are a few helpful resources.

Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May, M. D

Toughest People to Love, Dr. Chuck DeGroat

1 Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Criminal Under My Own Hat

You may be familiar with G.K. Chesterton and his famous character Father Brown. Chesterton was a prolific British writer at the turn of the 20th century. Some consider his most famous work to be Orthodoxy  which is a defense of the Christian faith. A must read for anyone who believes or is interested in the Christian faith.

 Chesterton wrote his first series of stories about Father Brown in 1911. He based the character on Father John O'Connor (1870–1952), a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton's conversion to Catholicism in 1922. Father Brown is a humble priest as well as a very cunning detective. There are close similarities between Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown. The creators of both were contemporaries and good friends.

At one point, Father Brown describes his approach to finding the criminal. The key is not the cleverness of a well trained sleuth, but humility.

I don’t try to get outside the man. I try to get inside the murderer. . . . Indeed it’s much more than that, don’t you see? I am inside a man. I am always inside a man, moving his arms and legs; but I wait till I know I am inside a murderer, thinking his thoughts, wrestling with his passions; till I have bent myself into the posture of his hunched and peering hatred; till I see the world with his bloodshot and squinting eyes, looking between the blinkers of his half-witted concentration; looking up the short and sharp perspective of a straight road to a pool of blood. Till I am really a murderer. 

No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.

Singer-songwriter, T-Bone Burnett captures this well in his song - Criminals. It also reminds me of John Owen's quote, "The seed of every known sin is in my own heart."

Listen to the song and scroll down to read the lyrics.


I've seen a lot of criminals
I've seen a lot of crime
Doing a lot of evil deeds
Doing a lot of time

We speak of these men as aliens
From some forbidden race
We speak of these men as animals
We will lock in a cage

But there's one man I must arrest
I must interrogate
One man that I must make confess
Then rehabilitate

There is no other I can blame
No other I can judge
No other I can cast in shame
Then require blood

I see him in the shadows down the hall
I see him in the plaster on the wall
There is no crime he cannot commit
No murder too complex
His heart is filled with larceny
And violence and sex

His heart is filled with envy
And revenge and greed
His heart is filled with nothing
His heart is filled with need

He's capable of anything
Of any vicious act
This criminal is dangerous
The criminal under my own hat

Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

1 Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.