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"But what if…"
"Just trust me."
"Yeh, but what if…"
"Just trust me."
Have you ever had a conversation like this with God? Perhaps you don't test his patience like I do with a bad case of the "what ifs." God has helped me to overcome a lot of problems in my life, but I'm still working on worry.
I have been an incessant worrier all my life. Worry and fear have been my companions for many years. I remember being depressed on New Year's Eve because of fearing what may or may not happen in the coming year. It truly put an emotional restraint on the celebration!
Becoming a mother only amplified my worrying way of life. To me, part of a mother's job was agonizing over her kids. But worry is a killer. It kills our peace of mind and it could destroy our physical body. God doesn't want us to fret. He's not trying to take responsibility away from us, but he doesn't want us to lose sleep over something we have no control over, especially because he never sleeps, and he is in control. Our anxiety will not bring anything except more gray hair, high blood pressure, ulcers, headache and heart palpitations. It will not change the situation for good, but only for bad.
This is an ongoing battle for me, but I'm positive God wants to show me how to overcome this habitual pattern, so I made it a project to investigate a way to change my mental habits.
First of all, God said to trust him. Proverbs 3:5-6 says to "Trust on the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths." (NLB)
How do we do that? Well, how do you trust anybody? Do we base our trust on how that person looks, or dresses, by their smile, or by their words, actions, motives and attitudes? We begin trusting them as we get acquainted with them. It takes a great deal of time and effort to get to know someone and our relationship with God is the same. Reading what he says in the Scriptures and hearing how he has helped others, and communicating with him often, is the means for getting to know him. He proves to us that he is trustworthy. He keeps his Word, his promises, and as we get close and personal with him, we grasp just a smidgen of how much he loves us and only wants what is for our best and for his glory. (Rom. 8:28)
Secondly, pray and commit the problem to God. Phil. 4:6-7 says, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." (NLB)
Thirdly, focus your thoughts on what is true. "… Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right..." (Phil. 4:8) Worry is fear of something in the future. It's not real or true and we need to focus on what is true. God's Word is true. What is happening right now is true. The future is imaginary. God gives strength for today, tomorrow he'll give strength for tomorrow. Take one day at a time. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today."
Elizabeth George thoroughly covers these issues in "Loving God with All Your Mind" . She writes, "… Jesus reduces our responsibilities to those of today. He forces our focus from the panorama view of the mountain range of forever to the single mountain of today. Today is all Christ asks us to manage, and today is something Christ knows we - with His help - can indeed manage…"
Fourthly, don't let your imagination take over. This is my hardest battle. Just when I think I'm turning my daughter over to God's protection, my imagination flashes some horrible scene of her suffering some dastardly fate. II Corinthians 10:3-5 (KJV) tells us "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." I have tried in the flesh to focus on what is true, but to put to flight the imagined scene in my mind, I have to fight with spiritual warfare. Only through binding all thoughts that are not from God, or taking them captive, can I overcome.
Finally, praise God. Notice Phil. 4:6b says to "…thank him for all he has done." Thanking him for what he is doing before you see your answer, is a step of faith. Pamela Reeve's little book Faith says, "Faith is recalling that I grow not by trying, but by trusting." She also writes, "Faith is the dependence of a newborn." We must acknowledge our dependence on God and praise him for everything he has done in the past, currently doing, and for what he will do in our future.
One of my favorite authors, Frances J. Roberts, wrote in Progress of Another Pilgrim: "Worry closes My hand. I cannot respond to worry; I can only wait until you cease worrying and begin praising…Lift the song of praise without any shadow of dismay, and you will open to yourself and your family the floodgates of glory."
Next time I'm tossing and turning, and out of my mind with worry for one of my children, I hope I can remember these five simple steps:
1. Trust God;
2. Pray and commit the situation to God;
3. Focus on what's true;
4. Put down imaginations; and finally,
5. Praise God in faith for answering prayer.
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