The Skill of Worry

7vp44vnyvs_fill_in_the_____God doesn’t want us to worry, because He wants us to rely on Him. In Matthew 6, we’re given reasons for why we should worry about food, drink, and clothes; in a nutshell, “God’s got this.” There are a lot of people around the world who are genuinely concerned about food, drink, and clothes; most of us don’t fit into that category. We have plenty. But we still worry about something: family, health, job security, retirement, bills, transportation, and so on.

So, today is a fill-in-the-blank lesson on worry. Perhaps the lesson is more about releasing worry and trusting God to take care of us in His way and timing. I’m including the basic structure of the end of Matthew 6. Think about what you would put in the blanks.

Don’t worry about your life, what you will ___________________; or about your body, what you will _________________. Isn’t life more than __________ and the body more than ___________? … Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about ___________? … So don’t worry, saying, “______________?” or “_____________?” or “______________?” But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25,27-28a,31,33-34)

The Filter of Faith

7caad49122d45e8963f450a4d604f5eeWe can make some outlandish claims about the ease of faith. But the truth is just because we follow Jesus doesn’t mean our lives are neat and tidy. We still have struggles and challenges. Our situations don’t magically change just because we have faith in Jesus. Anyone who claims that Jesus made everything in his or her life better and took away all pain, concerns, anxiety, needs, and more isn’t being honest–with you or themselves.

But Jesus gives us a filter of hope. Same situations but we face them differently. We look at them differently, considering the possibilities and bearing a heavy but slightly relieved load. Life is still difficult. We still hurt. We grieve. We struggle. We wonder. But we do all those things with hope…that we can have peace even when life seems chaotic, that Jesus assures us even in our uncertainties. We do not and cannot fully understand the future, let alone the present, but we can trust the One who does.

Music Monday: Slow down, and just breathe.

It’s Monday.

Not just any Monday.

It’s the Monday of Christmas week.

In the middle of your consuming to do list, in the middle of the pressures you feel right now, in the middle of the anxiety you have about what is to come, slow down. Take a moment.

Breathe.

Type A for Jesus

typeaBeing Type A for Jesus: It’s not possible.

We want it to be possible. We want to make it possible. That’s part of the Type A personality.

It’s ambition. And isn’t it possible to be ambitious for Jesus? We want Him to have the most impact. We want to see lives changed for Him. We want the world to be different. How fine is the line between ambition for self and ambition for Jesus?

It’s high energy. That, too, is possible for Jesus. After all, He certainly doesn’t want us to be sloths! But can we approach rest and peace with high energy?

And then there’s competitiveness, another trait of Type A. Well, now we get into some trouble, because competitiveness and humility don’t fit together too well. Yet can’t we frame competitiveness with discernment? We have to compete with some things, right? It’s the classic struggle between good and evil.

Type A traits are believed to make people susceptible to stress and heart disease. Well, there’s just no rationalizing that one. God’s pretty clear about worry and anxiety. They just don’t fit in with trusting Him.

It’s hard to harness those Type A personality traits. God will certainly use them through us if He gave them to us…but only with His harness. His timing, His plan, His wisdom.

Type A traits are often emphasized and encouraged in our culture. After all, we think, “If it’s gonna be, it’s up to me.” Sure, we need to be responsible, but we don’t need to be in control. Even when we think we are, we’re not. God emphasizes and encourages humility, service, forgiveness, respect, compassion, and generosity.

Take a step back. Check your perspective. It’s worth the time and change.

 

What If?

Today-is-Your-Best-FriendThat thing you think could happen later today, tomorrow, or somewhere down the road? Yes, it could happen. You might get the diagnosis, lose your job or life savings, move, mourn someone you love, deal with a debilitating disease, lose a good friend, and the list goes on and on. All your worst fears may come true…but playing the “what if” game isn’t going to help.

The possibilities of tomorrow might seem overwhelming today, because you are in…today.

Don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

When you worry about tomorrow today, imagining how you’ll be able to deal with something, you don’t have the grace you’ll have if or when you actually have to face it. You’re ill-equipped. You imagine an event, but you can’t take into account how God leads up to and surrounds the event. God gives you what you need each step along the way, but you have to embrace what He offers today in order to prepare you for tomorrow. You might not understand how one thing can possibly prepare you for something else. It might not seem connected at all. But God knows.

Just because God prepares us doesn’t mean we feel prepared. Facing painful situations is still overwhelming. But can you imagine if you hadn’t had the preparations along the way? How much more daunting would it be?

Perhaps you live by the mantra, “Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.” You don’t want to be caught off guard. But you can’t fully plan for every single possibility. You are never going to take all the surprises, good and bad, out of life. God is much better at planning and preparing than you are. And you can trust Him.

Are you willing?

Fitting All the Pieces Together

There are a lot of moving parts in daily life. Lots of decisions to make. Lots of problems to solve. Lots of questions to answer. Lots of responsibilities to coordinate. Feeling overwhelmed as the thought of it all?

If you try to take control of everything, you will…feel overwhelmed.

 

If you settle into God’s presence and respond as He guides, you will have a peace and comfort that calms and reassures you.

piecesI know, I know. Sounds simple and too good to be true, but let me assure you choosing God isn’t easy. He doesn’t take away all the decisions, problems, questions, and responsibilities. He doesn’t eliminate the chaos of moving parts. Everything doesn’t fall into place with ease. Having peace and comfort that calms and reassures you doesn’t mean your life is perfect, as you want it. Relying on Him and having His peace and comfort is certainly overwhelming, in a good way, at times, but other times, He simply gives you the perseverance you need to move forward and slog through the messiness of life. He takes the edge off.

What’s right in front of you? Face it with God.

When you make a list of all the moving parts, you’ll likely drown in the details…and perhaps ask God why He’s allowing so much. But He never intended for you to take it all on by yourself. He never intended for you to control life on your own. And He never intended you to look at all the possibilities and get tied up in knots with anxiety.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

There are, indeed, many moving parts in life, but you’re not the mechanic or the engineer. Your biggest responsibility is to trust and follow God, not because of what you get out of the choice. Your choice recognizes God’s authority. He already has it, and you’re not going to change that. Choose to honor Him, and He will change you.

Making Peace

Today’s post is excerpted from the Pure Emotion Bible study. Get a more extended sample or order a copy for yourself, a gift, or small group.

PureEmotionKindleCoverPeace. We all seek it. Bubble bath. Candlelight. Sun and sand. A relaxing book. Quiet. Perhaps your sense of peace involves something besides what I listed. But quiet always goes with peace, right? Or is that our own definition of peace? Let’s explore what God has to say about it.

Peace is an important part of who God is. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Let’s rewind into the Old Testament and turn our attention to Gideon in Judges. Gideon built a place to worship God and called it The Lord is Peace.

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak tree at Ophrah that belonged to Joash, one of the Abiezrite people. Gideon, Joash’s son, was separating some wheat from the chaff in a winepress to keep the wheat from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”

Then Gideon said, “Sir, if the Lord is with us, why are we having so much trouble? Where are the miracles our ancestors told us he did when the Lord brought them out of Egypt? But now he has left us and has handed us over to the Midianites.”

The Lord turned to Gideon and said, “Go with your strength and save Israel from the Midianites. I am the one who is sending you.”

But Gideon answered, “Lord, how can I save Israel? My family group is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least important member of my family.”

The Lord answered him, “I will be with you. It will seem as if the Midianites you are fighting are only one man.”

Then Gideon said to the Lord, “If you are pleased with me, give me proof that it is really you talking with me.Please wait here until I come back to you. Let me bring my offering and set it in front of you.”

And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”

So Gideon went in and cooked a young goat, and with twenty quarts of flour, made bread without yeast. Then he put the meat into a basket and the broth into a pot. He brought them out and gave them to the angel under the oak tree.

The angel of God said to Gideon, “Put the meat and the bread without yeast on that rock over there. Then pour the broth on them.” And Gideon did as he was told. The angel of the Lord touched the meat and the bread with the end of the stick that was in his hand. Then fire jumped up from the rock and completely burned up the meat and the bread! And the angel of the Lord disappeared! Then Gideon understood he had been talking to the angel of the Lord. So Gideon cried out, “Lord God! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

But the Lord said to Gideon, “Calm down! Don’t be afraid! You will not die!”

So Gideon built an altar there to worship the Lord and named it The Lord Is Peace. It still stands at Ophrah, where the Abiezrites live. Judges 6:11-24

What is your impression of Gideon?

What similarities do you see between yourself and Gideon?

Gideon went through a process with God before declaring an altar as The Lord Is Peace. What have you gone through that led you to experience the peace of God?

Peace isn’t a static status. You don’t arrive at a place of peace and camp under it. Gideon didn’t live under or beside or even near the altar he built to worship the God of peace. If you read further in Judges 6, you’ll discover Gideon, despite his fear, was obedient to God and did as he was told…he destroyed the altar of Baal and the idol of Asherah. And he didn’t destroy it without knowing those who used it. His family used it. Imagine the fear of going against the accepted and expected practice of those around you – and having your family among those people. Despite Gideon’s experience of the peace of God, he continues to question – in obedience – and God continues to guide and provide, which is peace. Peace is a process.

Suffering on earth is inevitable. We experience peace through suffering – through anxiety. Our suffering (and anxiety) on earth is temporary, not eternal. It’s relevant to your everyday life. Nothing goes unused by God. Suffering is understandable. Perhaps you don’t understand it, but God certainly understands each and every moment of your life.

What do you learn from the following verse? (I’ve given it to you in two translations to give you a wider breadth to consider.)

  • They are blessed who work for peace, for they will be called God’s children. Matthew 5:9
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (NIV)

Peace isn’t something we sit back and receive. We’re actively involved. Jesus didn’t tell us that the peacekeepers are blessed, but we often assume that’s what this verse is telling us. What’s the difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper?

Peacekeeping assumes peace already exists, and you’ll do whatever it takes to keep it. First, as mentioned before, peace isn’t something we obtain and keep. It’s a process, and while it can be any underlying current through our lives, there will be times that are more turbulent than others. Second, if you’re willing to keep peace at all costs, you won’t have peace! You might brush aside issues that need to be faced. You might be oblivious. Ignorance and avoidance do not equal peace.

Making peace, on the other hand, requires action, and it’s not just conflict. God guides us through discernment in when to confront and when to step aside, when to stand up and when to sit down, when to speak up and when to shut up. Consider our earlier study on anger. If we’re responding out of godly anger to confront something unrighteous, we’re in his will. Our goal isn’t to destroy. The goal is to construct and build up. When we respond out of our own anger, not confirmed or convicted by God, we’re not making peace. We’re likely making a mess.

Like many things in God’s kingdom, making peace seems contradictory. To make peace is active, yet it requires surrender. In order to make peace according to God’s will, we must surrender our own will. We might think surrender is holding up the white flag, and it’s similar as we consider giving ourselves up to God’s will. We place ourselves in his hands and are willing to be used by him. However, surrender is not inactive. Surrender isn’t possible without a fight or struggle. Surrender comes out of a fight or struggle. In the case of making peace – or setting aside our own emotional responses to any godly emotion – the surrender precedes making peace with any other person or situation. The conflict often happens within ourselves.

How have you experienced a struggle in accepting God’s peace or making peace in a situation?

How are we to give up our human anxieties and accept the peace God wants to provide us?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 (NASB)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

You might recognize a popular acronym, P.U.S.H. – Pray Until Something Happens. Yet another case in which we begin to believe something that’s not biblical because we see it on a regular basis, and we like the concept. We like to think our persistence pays off, and yes, God wants us to pursue him. However, it’s not about the push. And it’s about pursuing God’s will. And it’s not about praying until something happens. Something is happening. God is present. You are going to him in prayer, seeking him and trusting him. God is listening and he will not let you down. The “something” that happens might not be what you prefer. It might be that the best “something” is the process of you waiting or struggling and how close you grow to God in the process. You might even feel some distance from him through the process because you’re questioning when and how he’s going to answer. But he is answering. He’s not walking away. He’s pursuing you.

I know the process hurts sometimes. Growing pains are uncomfortable to say the least and sometimes downright excruciating. Pain – or wounds – aren’t necessarily bad if your healing is dependent on God.

Consider your reliance on God. Talk to him about it. Commit to him. Pursue him. Be authentic with him. Acknowledge him.