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)

Following, Transformation, and Preparation

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

When we follow the patterns of this world, we anticipate what will happen by our own logic or patterns of experiences. We dread, expect, or claim what will happen. Conforming creates patterns.

All patterns aren’t bad. Patterns can be positive and constructive. When we place standing stones to mark our experiences with and trust in God, the patterns that remind us how He has provided and guided in the past point into the future. We can trust He will provide and guide again…and again and again and again. However, we often cannot predict the specific direction.

When we are transformed, it becomes less about us and more about God. We acknowledge we don’t know the future and trust Him to prepare us for the situations ahead.

Preparation comes through transformation.

We’re not prepared today for our what we’ll face tomorrow. We’re prepared to face today. And today mandates our full attention and participation in order to receive the preparation, the transformation, we need for tomorrow.

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?

Are You Willing to Be Set Apart?

For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. (Colossians 3:10).

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

setapartChristians are supposed to be set apart. Actually, we are set apart. But do we behave as if we are?

I’m not talking about perfection. We have struggles. We have sin. How we respond to struggles and sin speaks loudly about what we believe about God. God is God no matter what we believe, but people who don’t know and believe God see Him in and through us. If we don’t reflect Him well, if we don’t follow Him with authenticity, what message are we sending others?

I’ve watched Christians worry more than non-Christians.

I’ve seen Christians be less generous than non-Christians.

I’ve listened to Christians complain, gossip, and tear down others more than non-Christians.

I’ve seen non-Christians be more Christ-like in actions, just not in Jesus’ name. And it breaks my heart. All of those issues or weaknesses (and a plethora of others) are okay when we’re willing to release them to God and let Him work on us. We all struggle with something. But when they’re chronic, and we cling to them, either ignoring them or rationalizing, we send confusing messages. We say we reflect and follow God, yet our willingness to change betrays what we say we do. If you know you’re not supposed to worry, yet you continue to do so, at the very least, be honest about it. Let people know you struggle with worry but that you are committed to growing through the struggle. If you don’t give as much as you know you should, even though God has challenged you, wrestle with it aloud, sharing the process. If you complain, gossip, and tear others down, when someone confronts you about it and holds you to God’s standards, don’t rationalize your behavior. Be humble. Apologize. Be transparent.

Be willing to let God change you. You might struggle with some of the same issues throughout your life, but they don’t have to control you. Let God work through you, change you, and you will glorify Him as others see you struggle, see God show up, and see the effects He has on your life. If you trust God to change you and let others see Him change you, they just might not expect Him to change them either.

Where’s Your God Space?

whereisgodHow does God fit into your life? Of course, he can fit in any way he wants, but how do you intentionally fit him in the everyday? Consider your life as a book. Is God…

  • On the front cover?
  • In the table of contents?
  • A footnote?
  • A recurring header or footer?
  • A highly-focused, brief chapter?
  • Throughout sporadic pages?
  • On the back page?

And where do you want God to be?

Avoid quickly giving the Sunday School answer. It’s more important to be honest. God already knows. You will not assess where you are as accurately as God does, but you need to take off the blinders and let him give you a glimpse of where you really are. Don’t worry. He knows what you can handle. If you beat yourself up too much and judge yourself too harshly, you’re probably not letting God guide. If you place yourself on a pedestal and fail to see any room for improvement and growth, you’re probably not letting God guide. Be realistic. God is the best reality check.

So, ask him. Where have you placed him? Where does he want to be in your life? He loves you and wants the very best for you. And the very best for you is him. So, seek him. Let him invade your life. He’s written the book of life. And he’s the best author!

Those who win the victory will be dressed in white clothes like them. And I will not erase their names from the book of life, but I will say they belong to me before my Father and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)

Turning Worry Into Prayer

worryprayerSo don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it. (Matthew 6:27)

Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. (Philippians 4:6)

We know we’re not supposed to worry, but how do we stop? I certainly don’t have quick, easy answers, but I encourage you to try these tips to turn worry into prayer.

  • Make the load you’re carrying tangible. Each time you begin to worry about something, pick up a small rock (or a large rock, depending on the worry). Slip it into your pocket or purse and carry it with you. Consider whether or not you really want to carry around extra weight all day and adding to the weight day after day. Commit to putting down the weight. God can handle heavy loads.
  • Place a rubber band on one wrist, and each time you begin to worry throughout the day, switch it to the other wrist. Notice how many times you switch it throughout the day. Consider the time and effort you could save by giving the worry to God. When you’re ready, fling the rubber band as far as you can. Watch it soar away!
  • Consider the issues you tend to worry about most often. Or make a list of what you’re worried about right now. Go outside with a bottle of bubble solution and begin to blow bubbles into the air. As you blow air into the bubbles, reflect on the cares you need to give to God. Watch the bubbles float away or pop. Thank God for taking your cares and handling them how he sees fit.
  • Give yourself a worry time out. Sit in a chair and think about all your worries. Don’t hold back. Let your mind swirl with the worries of your life. When you can’t seem to worry any more, get up and go about your day. When you begin to worry about anything again, sit back down in the worry chair. Repeat throughout the day. Consider how worry holds you back from getting done what God intends for you. Are you really willing to commit that much time to worry?
  • Journal your cares to God. Write them down, holding nothing back. When you’re sure you’ve recorded all the worries and anxiety you have, shred the piece of paper, committing to let God deal with it all. Then begin a practice of not waiting until there’s a long list. As soon as you begin to worry about something, jot it on a single sticky note and shred it. Practice giving your cares to God as soon as they come to mind.

I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

But the people who trust the Lord will become strong again. They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; they will run and not need rest; they will walk and not become tired. (Isaiah 40:31)

Give your worries to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will never let good people down. (Psalm 55:22)

God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called, because that was his plan. (Romans 8:28)