We Christians use the word grace a lot. Connecting it to God's favor, we put it on shirts, pallet wood signs, or in elegant script on coffee mugs. The word suggests loveliness, elegance, and peace.
Few Christian consider the antonym, and in fact, many do not use it at all—graceless.
In 1678, Englishman John Bunyan published the second most widely read book after the Bible, the allegorical novel Pilgrim's Progress. The work follows the expedition of Christian, the protagonist who leaves all he knows to journey to the Celestial City. He carries a burden on his back, representative of his sins, until he becomes saved. His travels signify an unbeliever's journey from terror and worry into salvation and freedom.
A beautiful line in the narrative happens when the hero says, "My name is now Christian, but my name used to be Graceless."
Since an allegorical tale seeks to represent ideas, a character's names stand for a concept, so this part of the story is especially important.
Well, to be "Graceless" means to lack beauty and loveliness. Christian, when he is renamed, leaves that label behind him.
Anxiety is ugly. Anxiety is monstrous. Anxiety is fueled by the mythologies the Enemy tells us about who we are: we are unlovely. We cannot be worthy. We must do, or not do, and we are not safe. We cannot rest. We will disintegrate if the illusions we present to others collapse, for then we cannot be loved.
Anxiety devours peace and takes hostage our sleep, our energy, our health, and our joy. Anxiety splinters us into a fraction of who we can be since we are drowning in fear of the future or shame of a past we cannot leave behind. Anxiety hardens hearts. Anxiety amplifies mistrust. Anxiety welds us into beings contorted far from the design God has for us.
God never intended for us to live in worry. All of His promises point back to the freedom His loves offers us: "Cast all your cares upon Him," Peter writes. "Come to me, I will give you rest," Matthew explains. "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety," says the Psalmist.
When the worry becomes heavy again, like the burden Christian carried, what are we do to do? When we suffocate in the fog and boa-constrictor tight grip of anxiety, how can we begin to be free?
We remember our name used to be Graceless, but now, we are the children of a King. We have left that behind us. We have enough to live in today. We have worth for beyond what we can do, and forgiveness for what we cannot.
I invite you to cast aside anxiety the next time it rises, telling it, "No. My name is now Christian."
Written by: Anna Ivey