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Posts Tagged ‘Worry’

 

 

Ever had a sleepless night due to a relentless whirl of what-ifs, a churning jumble of distress and anxiety, a racing heart?

Worry will do that. No wonder we’ve been told worry is bad for us.  In fact, according to Charles Mayo (co-founder of the Mayo Clinic), worry causes adverse affects on the circulatory system, heart, glands, and nervous system.*

But what about concern? Is that different from worry? Is it OK to be concerned?

The answer is yes. Scripture gives much evidence that even our perfect Heavenly Father exhibits concern. He demonstrates:

  • Compassion on all he has made (Psalm 145:9).
  • Care for each of us (1 Peter 5:7).
  • Mindful attention (Hebrews 2:6).
  • Watchful protection (Jeremiah 31:10).
  • Careful planning for us (Psalm 40:5).

 

 

As God exemplifies, concern prompts beneficial action; worry, on the other hand, accomplishes nothing but harm.

Worry creates a thick fog of fear; concern invites God into our experience with all his wisdom, power, and comforting presence. He is, after all, the only One who can dispel fog, whether it’s water vapor in nature or worry on our minds.

Just the reminder our loving Father is right in the midst of the mess with us will do much to sweep away worry.  And “there is heaven in the depth of that word—Father!” (Charles Spurgeon, emphasis added).

Indeed. If we dig into the heavenly depths of our Father’s love we’ll see:

  • The support of his powerful right hand (Psalm 65:8).
  • The protection of his everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).
  • The comfort of being carried close to his heart (Isaiah 40:10).

 

 

And that’s just for starters.

If we dig into what we know about him, we can affirm:

  • “Nothing happens in any particular unless God’s will is behind it; therefore [we] can rest in perfect confidence in him” (Oswald Chambers).
  • The God who made us will equip us for whatever lies ahead—even if it’s unpleasant (Habakkuk 3:19).
  • Difficulties most often set the scene for his glory to be displayed (Romans 11:36).

 

 

Sometimes, though, the fog of worry shrouds even the strongest mental images and the most affirming truths. We’re forced to admit: trustful concern is not easy.

For most of us, it is a learned discipline that grows over time. Slowly we’re able to embrace the truth that all will be well because all is in God’s perfect and capable hands. Slowly we develop the habit of affirming God’s character and power, to develop a near worry-less state of contentment.

And we learn the value of gratitude amidst turmoil—as illogical as that may sound. The very act of thanking God releases our minds from negative focus. When we turn our attention to him, problems fade in significance and the fog is dispersed. That’s why Paul recommended, “Pray with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6).

 

 

And that’s how we turn worthless worry into productive concern.

 

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I thank you, Father, that NO situation is hopeless because you are the God of eternal hope. I can count on you because you are the God of universal sovereignty, complete sufficiency, and abundant goodness.

I thank you for your comforting presence, for your power at work (even though I can’t see it right now), and for your glorious promise that you always bring good from every situation. I praise you that, while we may sow in tears, there will come the day we reap with songs of joy. Hallelujah!

 

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; Romans 11:36; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Psalm 145:7;

Matthew 28:20; John 5:17; Romans 8:28; Psalm 126:5

 

*www.todayinsci.com.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flicker.com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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seagrape03

“Oh, what a beautiful tree!” my mother-in-law exclaimed with enthusiasm. Her comment referred to a tall bush, planted near the house and visible outside our kitchen window. “What’s the name of it?” she asked.  Being from Ohio, Mom wasn’t familiar with some of the unique foliage of our area in south Florida.

“That’s a sea grape,” I told her. “It’s actually a shrub, but they can grow quite tall.”

“Well, it’s lovely. Such big leaves!”

Now clearly there’s nothing remarkable about this conversation, until you know that Mom had asked the very same question with the very same enthusiasm every morning of her visit. And each morning I supplied the same answer.  Mom was in her late 80s, and her dementia was becoming more and more noticeable.

Mom’s fresh outlook each morning reminded me of Lamentations 3:22-23: 

The faithful love of the LORD never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning (NLT).

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Just as Mom brought new enthusiasm to each morning, so God brings new mercies for each day. Yes, the challenges we faced yesterday required wisdom, strength, and perseverance. But today we’ll need a fresh supply.   Praise God he never runs out of such gifts; he is always able to provide.

In the same way, God’s new mercies for today are not meant to be sufficient for tomorrow. In other words, we shouldn’t expect to feel confident and in charge this morning for the potential challenges of the future—much as we’d like to. (Who hasn’t wished to know now exactly how the next day or week will unfold, and how best to respond?)

Instead, our wise and loving Heavenly Father has chosen to lead us one day at a time. And just what is so wise and loving about keeping us in the dark?  So as to protect us from being overwhelmed, easy prey to depression, and paralyzed by fear.

No, our best course of action is to avail ourselves of God’s mercies for this one day. As for tomorrow, we can trust God to supply new mercies, more than sufficient for whatever we might face when the time comes (Matthew 6:34).

I’m remembering Corrie ten Boom. (Maybe this post brought her to your mind, too.)

g25143_u22597_corrie_ten_boom

Corrie and her family suffered cruel hardships in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, as a result of helping Jews escape the Holocaust.

After the war, people would often say to Corrie, “I wish I had such great faith as yours. I could never live through the experiences you survived.”

Corrie would tell a story to explain.

When she was a child, Corrie happened to see a dead baby. A terrible fear gripped her that one of her family might also die. When Papa ten Boom came to tuck her in that night, she burst into tears.

“I need you!” she sobbed. “You can’t die!”

Her sister, Betsy, explained why Corrie was so afraid.

Papa asked, “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”

“Just before we get on the train,” she responded.

“Exactly,” Papa replied. “And God knows when you’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.”

Papa ten Boom was proven right. When Corrie needed supernatural strength, God did provide. We can rest assured that his mercies will be new and fresh each morning for each of us, as needed.

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I praise you, Lord God, that we can face each day with fresh enthusiasm, because for each trial, you have prepared for us great mercies like endurance, strength, and wisdom. I thank you that in the midst of trouble, you also provide blessings: a more acute awareness of your presence, peace that defies explanation, family and friends to come alongside, miraculous provision, and delightful surprises to make us smile. You are not just a sufficient God; you are an abundantly gracious God!

(Photo credits:  www.mgonline.com; http://www.coffee4thesoul.com; http://www.myhero.com.)

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Woman with piggy bank at rainy window

 

“Save for a rainy day,” financial experts advise.  And they’re right.  It is smart to have funds set aside in case of emergency.

But we would also be wise to save up for another kind of rainy day:

  • The day great disappointment shatters our joy
  • The day the doctor begins a consult by saying, “I’m terribly sorry, but…”
  • The day a loved one calls with disturbing news

What could we possibly save up that would help in such circumstances?

Consider: monetary deposits in a bank account insulate us against financial emergencies.

Similarly, we can make faith-statement deposits into our soul-accounts, to insulate us against life’s emergencies.  A healthy soul-account offers peace of mind, confidence, and a sense of well-being.

The most valuable faith statements are those straight from scripture, since the Bible is our source of truth.

Statements such as these are worthy starting points:

  • God is with me, even in the midst of trial.

“Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).

  • God is my stronghold in time of trouble, offering help and deliverance.

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them” (Psalm 37:39-40).

  • He will supply all my needs.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

 

Sometimes God makes deposits in our soul-accounts through other reading.  Here are a few examples I’ve collected:

  • “God makes good things out of the hard times.” – Erica Hale
  • “Difficulties are sent to make us grow. Move from complaining to proclaiming what God is doing through the problem. Remind yourself, for every Calvary, there is an Easter.” – Barbara Johnson
  • “When we understand that life is not about us, we learn to overlook the trivial and fix our gaze on the eternal. What is an offense compared to His love? What is a rejection compared to His unconditional acceptance? What is a momentary trial compared to an eternity with Him?” – Emmanuelle Gomez

 

Faith statement deposits also come through experiences, such as:

  • The spontaneous hug of a good friend who knows of our struggles. That’s God’s way of assuring us…

…We are not alone.

  • An answered prayer—and the answer is far beyond what we asked for. That’s God’s way of showing us…

…His love and blessing never fail, even in the midst of difficulty.

  • A transformed spirit through worship.  Worry becomes faith. Fear becomes courage. Depression becomes gladness. That proves…
  • …The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 4:8).

 

Faith-statements, deposited in our souls even before we have need of them, provide a deep, sweet sense of security.

When difficulties arise, and the time comes to make withdrawals, we can praise God for each truth. Praise will fill our hearts with song and drown out the voices of worry and fear.

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Your faithfulness, O God, is unwavering and unfailing.   Oh, how I want to be faithful to you, especially during difficult circumstances.  You have provided the tools.  I praise you for the deposits your Spirit makes into my soul account, offering solace, perspective, strength, and wisdom.   Help me to avail myself of your gracious provision.  

 

(Photo credit:  www.dailyfinance.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(As most of you know, Steve will soon be retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Mid-June we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. Now if our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks.  But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 12-3-12.)

 

When I was a little girl, my parents kept a large garden in the backyard. They grew corn, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, and more.

Among all that produce grew something else: garter snakes. I was petrified of those snakes, in spite of assurances from Mom and Dad that they could do me no harm.

 

Garter_Snake

 

So what was my reaction if, while playing in the yard, I noticed the slightest bit of slithering? I RAN while emitting eardrum-splitting shrieks. No doubt those snakes took off just as rapidly in the opposite direction, but I never looked back to find out.

Those experiences make a good word-picture of what my response should be when snakes of negativity, worry, or hurt feelings invade my mind. RUN!

James recommended exactly that: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7b).

But where should I run to? As a child, when seeking escape from the garter snakes, I often ran into the house, a safe and secure refuge. (Although I did have the occasional nightmare about smart snakes, who knew how to slither under doors and up stairs, so even the house wasn’t safe!)

As an adult, facing “snakes” of a different nature, where should I run?

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

That means, when my thoughts begin to turn to the negative, I need to run to God, my refuge of hope and help (Psalm 119:114).

When people speak or act unkindly and my emotions are bruised, I need to run to God, my refuge of comfort (Psalm 31:19-20).

When worry overtakes me, I need to run to God, my refuge of peace (Psalm 9:9).

Once my attention is focused on him, I must:

  • Look into his eyes and see the great everlasting love he has for me (Jeremiah 31:3).
  • Sense his strong arms around me, holding me close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11).
  • Hear him reminding me of all his promises and all the times he has blessed me in the past (Psalm 77:11-12).
  • Taste his goodness (Psalm 34:8) in all the flavors of his attributes: power, wisdom, holiness, loving-kindness, grace, and more.

And what will be the end result? “Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy” (Psalm 5:11a). That sure beats cowering, fretting, and flustering, doesn’t it?

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Thank you, Father, for availing yourself to us as a refuge, a person-place we can run to for help, protection, and peace. We love you, O Lord, our strength, because you are our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer (Psalm 18:1).

Thank you for caring for us, those who seek to trust in you (Nahum 1:7). May we avail ourselves of your gladness and joy rather than let the snakes of negativity, worry, or emotional hurt get the best of us!

(Photo credit:  www.wikimedia.org.)

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“There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

M-m-m.  Interesting.  John doesn’t say perfect courage drives out fear.  Not even perfect faith.  Why does he say perfect love will drive out fear?

First of all, this verse is not talking about fears of financial ruin or life-threatening events.  Verse eighteen gives us the context.  John is talking about Judgment Day.  He’s reminding us that, if we know Jesus, there is nothing to fear when we leave this earth for eternity.  Jesus gave his life to save us from the consequences of our sin.  Our place in heaven is secure, if our faith is in him.

And once that matter has been settled, other fear-producing questions can be put in proper perspective. We have to remind ourselves that earthly life fades quickly like the leaves (Isaiah 64:6).  These questions will cease to matter–questions like:

  • Will my job survive the cutbacks?
  • Will I be able to keep my health insurance?
  • Will my kids make it through their personal crisis?

But such questions can cause torment to the point of ulcers and high blood pressure.  If we allow fear to control us, we’re saying that the troubles we face are more powerful than our God.

So here are a few ways to fight against fear:

  • Rename your difficulties as possibilities—possibilities for God to do something glorious.  Without a problem, there’s no opportunity for a miracle.
  • Picture God Almighty accompanying you all day long.  He’s standing right behind you at the sink.  He’s sitting beside you in the car.  His ever-watchful eye is upon you,  his infinite strength is available to you, and his perfect wisdom will guide you.
  • Don’t feed your fear with worry; feed your faith with the truth of God’s Word.  Psalm 23 is a perfect place to begin.  Remember verse four?  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
  •  Listen to what he says:  “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you (Isaiah 41:13).  Visualize God holding you by the hand as you walk through each day.

Years ago, when a I was a young teenager, my family visited Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.  Dad and I were hiking over the mountain paths when we came to a deep, narrow ravine.  He easily jumped across, turned, and held out his hand for me.

“I can do it myself,” I announced confidently.  Then I looked down into that deep ravine.  What if I fall? I thought.  Grinning sheepishly at Dad, I said, “’Guess you’d better help me after all!”  I had great confidence in my father.  I knew he loved me and would never let me fall.

God is ready to walk hand-in-hand with me along the mountain paths of life.  Problems arise, though, when I repeat that moment on Lookout Mountain and focus on the ravine, the what-ifs.  The  result?  I’m frozen with fear.

How downright foolish of me, when my loving, trustworthy Heavenly Father has assured me:

“Don’t panic.  I’m with you.  There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength.  I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you” (Isaiah 41:10, The Message).

 You see, perfect love drives out fear because we can trust the perfect love of our perfect God.

(art & photo credits:  www.gracevine.com; http://www.visualphotos.com)

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Years ago in my hometown, when the community pool was built, Dad often took my brother and me swimming.  I marveled at the way my father could slice the water with a smooth dive, roll over on his back, and float.  Without even moving his arms and legs, he could remain on top of the water.  Amazing!

When I tried it, I sank–immediately.

“Daddy!  Show me how to float!” I cried.

First, he helped me to lie flat-out on top of the water.  His hand gently supported the middle of my back.  And then Dad said the strangest thing.

“Now, relax.”

What?!  Every fiber of my being was tense.  I just knew that if I relaxed, my nose would instantly fill up with heavily chlorinated water.

But I trusted Dad.  He wouldn’t trick me into a catastrophe.  So I tried to relax.

Easier said than done.  Try as I might, my body would not relax.  My focus was more on the possibility of sinking than it was on the one thing that would keep me afloat.

“That’s OK,” Dad probably said.  “This is just your first try.  Keep practicing, and all of a sudden you’ll get the feel of it.  That’s how it happened for me.”

This experience came to mind as I read Charles Spurgeon’s comment on an excerpt from Isaiah 30:15.

First, the scripture-excerpt:  “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”

And now, the Spurgeon quote:  “We are sinking by our struggles when we might float by faith.”

But learning to relax in the spiritual realm is just as difficult as it was to relax on my back in that swimming pool.  It is so much easier said than done–at least for me.

Why is fretting and worrying my default mode?  It’s so pointless.  Resting in God is the only way to hope and peace (Psalm 62:5).

The big question is how.  How can I relax into quiet confidence that will be my strength, and keep me afloat?

Perhaps the answer is in that word practice.  As I reaffirm over and over God’s glorious attributes, as I review His wonderful promises, my focus will change and my spirit will learn how to rest.

What attributes might be wise to focus on?  King David included a number of them in his glorious psalm of thanksgiving, found in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36:

  • Power (vs. 9, 12, 14) – He is able to work wonders.
  • Integrity (v. 15) – He is totally trustworthy.
  • Holiness (v. 29) – He is absolutely pure and righteous, totally set apart from anyone else in the universe.
  • Goodness (v. 34) – His blessings to us are bountiful and frequently displayed.
  • Love (v. 34) – Not based on our paltry deeds, but on his kind and gracious nature.

And what promises would build my confidence?  Here are three for a good start:

  • “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.  He is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).
  • “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
  • “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).

Notice:  He promises protection, provision, and guidance.  Everything we might face is covered.

Thinking back to those summer days at the community pool, I’m reminded of two things that happen when we float:  1) Our eyes are focused upward.  2) Our ears cannot hear very well, situated as they are beneath the surface.  Noise is silenced.

Those two things need to happen in the spiritual realm if we’re to float by faith.  Our eyes need to be focused upward on our powerful, loving, promise-keeping God, and our ears need to be stopped to the voices of worry.

The former will undoubtedly take care of the latter.

(Photo credits:  www.sciforums.com ; www.dailyencouragement.net ; www.flickr.com ; www.confessionsofasmowflake.com )

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