This post originally appeared on our blog on March 1, 2015.
As I carried the overflowing laundry basket up the stairs, it occurred to me that its weight felt nothing like the heaviness that was sitting on my heart. I had been reading about world news this morning, and article after article brought me to prayer. ISIS, human trafficking, so much suffering…and it was just getting layered on top of the stories that were really the greater issue for me. These are the stories of the people I love who are in the midst of real trials and pain right now, in this very minute, and I feel helpless in the face of it all. The worry feels like it has wrapped itself around my mind and woven itself into the fabric of my heart. It’s a lead weight. It’s sapping me of strength.
Can you relate to what I’m talking about? Have you been waking up in the middle of the night with worry and then can’t get back to sleep? Is it following you around all day and becoming a filter that clouds everything?
How can we get out from under this thing? God has commanded us not to worry (“Do not be anxious about anything” Philippians 4:6), so it must be possible to bring our thoughts under His control. God never asks us to do something that He doesn’t equip us for. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we’re told, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” So we’re not alone in this struggle. St. Paul goes on to say, “And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” So that’s what we need to discover. What is the way out for us? What do we have to do to get to the escape door that frees us from the pit of worry?
Friends, I’m preaching to myself here. So lean in as this fellow worrier tries to remember the things that she’s been taught by people wiser than she. And then let’s pray for each other that we would apply these truths.
When I am worrying, I’m projecting myself into the future and envisioning how things could turn out. The problem is, God is not there in my “fantasy worst-case scenario.” The majority of the things we worry about will never happen. The truth is, the present moment is rarely intolerable. What’s miserable is to have your body here, right now, but your mind dwelling in the future. This dichotomy is unsettling and robs us of peace.
If we can get it through our minds that all God is asking is for us to obey Him and love like Christ for these next five minutes, we realize that step by step, we can move forward. It reminds me of the proverb, “Worry is like a rocking chair—it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Which is really a description of being stuck. Far better to stay in the present moment and ask the Lord, “In this moment, are you asking me to act: to do something specific, or are you asking me to accept: to acknowledge that my current situation is beyond my control and therefore needing to be placed in Your hands?”
God provides grace and strength for us to do what He asks us to do. He does not provide grace for worry. This means that when we are dwelling in the land of “what if’s,” we are envisioning an outcome without the miracle, without the inexplicable peace that passes understanding and without the divine strength that enables us to persevere beyond our normal limitations. God is faithful to step into reality and transforms bad circumstances into something beautiful. God does not step into the worries in our heads. When we focus on our worries, the best we’ve got is our own solution to the problem. And if we’re worrying, we’ve probably already realized that our own “best solution” is either out of our control or simply not good enough. As Linda Dillow wisely wrote in her book, Calm My Anxious Heart, “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” And we need all the strength we can get.
Pass the burden over to God. If you have to do this 10 times in one minute, then do it 10 times in one minute. The human heart isn’t strong enough to carry it all. The weight gets to be too much, and the heart begins to despair. Each time we pass the burden over to God, we are making an act of faith. In doing so, our faith is being strengthened. God is faithful to honor your act of faith.
The solutions to our problems do not lie in our heads or in our hearts. God holds the solutions, and only He can see the whole picture. Only He can see the way in which the trial of today is a part of a grander story. If we could see the whole thing, we wouldn’t worry. So let’s pray for one another to trust God with the larger plan that He is utterly in control of—a plan that He promises is ultimately FOR OUR GOOD and FOR HIS GLORY. God is not limited by time or space. He is already in the future, taking all the threads of our lives and weaving them into a beautiful tapestry.
With love and prayers for you,
You know how it goes. Sometimes you reach that point where you think you cannot possibly handle one more little thing going wrong or you will lose your mind, and then that one more thing happens.
So it's been a little bit busy over here at Casa Brenninkmeyer. I love my children, every single one of them; I love sleeping in; and I love vacation. All good things. But I also become much sweeter if I get a little time to myself in the house, and we are now on week 4 of Spring Break. This is what happens when you have two different college spring breaks, a different week for the high school spring break, and then another one for the elementary school spring break. And then a break for Easter gets thrown in, and the result is EVERYTHING FEELING A LITTLE BIT OUT OF KILTER.
So that sets the stage for when my “one more thing” happened. Bailey (our double doodle) had been given an extremely ugly haircut at Petsmart, and there was no way I was going back and taking that risk again. A random stranger said that the place to get groomed in St. Augustine was the Humane Society. So without thinking for more than, oh, two seconds, I set up the appointment. In their defense, when she came home, she looked great. But then she started to scratch. And as it turned out, she had fleas. In case you're wondering, this wasn't the “one more thing.” The fact that it was one of the worst cases of fleas my vet had ever seen, the fact that the vet bill to deal with it was shockingly high, and the fact that we would need to pick the fleas off her manually for about three weeks…not even those things dampened my spirits.
The “one more thing” came when they started biting me. At this very moment, as I write this little reflection, I am gritting my teeth and doing all that I can to not scratch, because I currently have 60 (SIXTY) flea bites just from my knees down. As it turns out, it's not a very good idea to let Bailey curl up at my feet when I read/write/pay bills/whatever.
So I know I'm not supposed to scratch the bites (I grew up in Minnesota, after all, where the state bird is the mosquito), but yesterday I just couldn't bear it anymore. I decided to go have a pedicure so someone professional could scratch them/massage them and I could get some relief.
I sat at the nail salon and waited for an hour. This was incredibly irritating to me because when I'd walked in, they told me it would be twenty minutes. I thought to myself, “This is the worst. I am so over this whole thing!!!” Then I picked up a magazine and started to read.
And I was able to gain perspective. There was an article about horrific things going on in in war torn parts of the world. I read about soldiers rushing into African villages, demanding that each family give up one child to be trained as a child soldier. Can you imagine? How could you ever do it? It's unthinkable. And I'm sitting in the nail salon thinking “it's just the worst” because I am tired and itchy and am being made to wait. Well, not only that. I was also carrying some deep heartache around, and the rest of the things were just tipping me over the edge. But even so, my heartache didn't compare to what those African mothers were facing.
Perspective. What a difference it can make.
When we're frustrated or sad or weighed down with worry, our focus tends to grow more narrow. By contrast, we gain perspective when we endeavor to see things from God's point of view. He can see all the times when the things we take for granted or even complain about are things that someone else is praying for. He can see how the story will end. He can see the why behind the suffering. And although His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways…they are higher than our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), we come closer to seeing our circumstances through His eyes when we focus on His words.
This promise of Scripture helps us gain perspective:
“After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.” 1 Peter 5:10
His word tells us that He will restore us-He will fix and mend what is broken within us. He will establish us-He'll settle the unrest in our hearts. He'll strengthen us-He'll absorb our weakness and infuse us with His power. The suffering will not last forever. The God of all grace calls us to spend eternity with Him, and what we will receive there will be nothing but the best. So don't give up. Hang tight through the tough circumstances. Let Him hold you close through the heartache. What seemed the worst on Good Friday turned out to be God's very best. This is how He works, then, and now.
If you want a good laugh, watch this clip of comedian Tim Hawkins, That's the Worst. Give yourself a gift and buy his DVD by the same title. It's family friendly humor that helps us not take ourselves so seriously.