Case Study: Alan has always been a little up tight. While he has never had a panic attack or called in sick to work because of his anxiety, Alan doesn’t really know what peace is. The things that really eat at Alan’s thought life are financial stability and social rejection.
Alan has a modest to above average job and his wife works. They chose to only have two children because Alan was fearful about providing for more than two (his wife was fine with that). His family lives well within their means, avoids debt, and saves aggressively for retirement. But Alan still has this nagging doubt about whether they are doing “enough.”
His wife only gets upset when Alan questions her after a shopping trip and when he resists planning family vacations. She knows he is sincerely fearful about money, but it does begin to feel controlling after a while. She keeps reminding him not to live so much for the future that he misses the present.
Alan’s friends are slightly less understanding. They have a good time with Alan’s fears. There are perpetual jabs about all the things he does to “save a dime.” It is obvious how much he wants to be accepted and the way this magnifies the impact of their jokes is obvious to everyone.
While no emergency has popped us, Alan is beginning to feel emotionally exhausted. His wife and doctor have brought up depression several times, but Alan knows he is just mentally spent from wrestling with his anxiety. Over the last several months Alan has become increasingly aware of how his fear of rejection has caused him to isolate himself and his fear regarding money has sapped any joy in generosity (even gifts to his family).
Alan doesn’t enjoy life right now. He feels like he is doing everything “by the book” in managing his life and living to please everyone else, but he is growing jealous of the world. As he sits alone at the computer checking the financial accounts after his family goes to sleep, Alan prays to God for help.
Pre-Questions: This case study is meant to challenge you to think biblically about the real struggles of life. These questions will not be answered completely in the sections below. But they do represent the kind of struggles that are being wrestled with in Psalm 112. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.
- How would you answer Alan’s frustration as he explained he was just trying to do things the right way and please those he cared about?
- What would you say in response to Alan’s wife’s and doctor’s concern regarding depression?
- How should Alan and his wife address their differences in financial philosophy?
- How would you advise Alan to cultivate and find greater joy in being generous?
Read Psalm 112 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 112 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Alan to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Alan would need to pray many times as he struggled to surrender his anxiety to the Lord.
A re-write of Psalm 112
1. The Lord be praised… I know that’s how I should start a prayer. It’s true but… The people who really do fear the Lord (more than rejection or retirement) really are blessed. Living simply to please the Lord in daily decisions and enjoying it, would be a dream life. Why do I make it harder than that for myself?
2. My kids would benefit immensely if we made the decision to please the Lord more than as a reaction to my fears. Lord, I hear my kids bounce between echoing my fears and mocking them. Neither response is training them in the “fear and instruction of You.” I could give them the whole world but if I help them forfeit their soul to security and acceptance, I will have destroyed them.
3. Lord, you are my security. I know that even when I ignore it. Everything minus you is nothing and I always feel like I have nothing because I am always focused on everything. You have provided for us and yet I feel the need to control, hence doubt eats my peace. The only wealth that lasts is a godly character; that is the currency of eternity.
4. I have always felt dark because of where I have been putting my trust. Lord you are gracious, merciful, and righteous. Those are the qualities of trustworthiness. Money is void character because it has no life. Why was I trying to trust something dead? Can death give life?
5. Now generosity makes more sense. Generosity is imitation not an investment. I always doubted whether You would really give me my money back if I were generous. When I am generous You give me more of Yourself; I become more like You. That could give me the peace I have so desperately been longing for.
6. That would give me the emotional stability I have lacked. I wanted security and acceptance and got nothing. No one paid attention to anything I said, because they knew it would change with the ebb and flow of my most recent fears. If someone was upset with my frugality, I would commit to their desire. Once it came time to follow through, I would grow fearful and back out. My words weren’t worth remembering.
7. I remember how I hated the words, “Guess what?” I assumed the worst and read the worst into whatever I heard. Living only to please you would strengthen my heart. You are a fair and just God. You can be pleased in good times and bad, unlike financial markets and people.
8. I have not felt this way in years… if ever! By fearing You, my temporal fears have become irrelevant and I like it. I used to replay my friend’s taunts in my mind and feel my soul shrivel. When I know I am loved by You and embrace You as my security, I can replay their words and nothing happens. Nothing, I don’t even need a clever come back!
9. This is more blessing than I can stand. I must share something or I will burst. I laugh as I hear myself say those words. That is not me talking. That is You talking in me. You, Lord, are causing springs of Your character to erupt in my heart as I find my security in You. That is a source of peace and strength that can be sustained. Lord, help me not look to another source of security again.
10. My friends won’t know what to do with me. Now that their entertainment at my expense is gone, they’ll be angry. They’ll give me a hard time for ruining their fun. Lord, do with their desire for entertainment through derogatory humor what You did with my desire for security through money and acceptance. Liberate them from their wicked desires as You have liberated me!
Passages for Further Study: Proverbs 29:25; Matthew 6:19-34, 18:21-35
Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 112, examined how Alan might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:
- How does the source of someone’s sense of security impact their level of anxiety?
- How did a change in perspective on his struggles change Alan’s perspective on his family and friends?
- How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 112?
- For what instances of anxiety do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 112?