Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Shape Worry Into Prayer

I am not a worrier by nature.

I tend to look at a problem and immediately marshal available resources to find a solution.

But sometimes, there is really. truly not one single thing I CAN do and it’s then I fall prey to those niggling “what if” thoughts.

You know the ones.

The kind of things that keep you from drifting off to sleep at night or visit you in your dreams when you do. The unbidden and unwelcome scenarios that flash across your mind when the phone rings too early in the morning. The spiraling downward plunge of your heart when headlines scream disaster and it seems to be coming closer and closer to your own home and your own family.

Paul tells the Philippians to shape those worries into prayers:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Philippians 4:6-7 MSG (paraphrase, not translation)

I think I was in my mid-thirties, knee deep in raising and educating my children and experiencing some health problems when I realized that worry is really all about trust.

Do I trust God or not?

Is He the loving, perfect, faithful Father the Bible tells me He is or not? Will He bring me through (either physically safe and whole or onto Heaven) or not? Is there a single thing on this earth (disaster, disease, schemes of men or even the devil) that can separate me from His love or not?

I DO believe God is a loving, perfect and faithful Father.

I DO believe He holds me in the palm of His hand.

I’ve had many, many times when I needed to remind my heart that was really what I believed. I’ve had to drag out those promises, write them down, post them on my fridge and bathroom mirror and ignore all the ways the world and my own mind drove me to worry.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, it almost destroyed my trust in God.

Not my faith that He IS or that He is in control, but rather that what He allows is so absolutely awful.

I had to start over and learn again to shape my worry into whispered prayers.

Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 PHILLIPS (translation)

There is no magic to lift the weight of worry from my shoulders. I must choose, as an act of will to take whatever is pressing down on my heart, making me anxious, speaking lies to my soul and give them to God.

When I do that, He is faithful to set a guard over my heart and mind.

Jesus invites me to pour out my worries at His feet. He begs me to lay down the burden I am unable and unfit to carry and let Him bear it.

He promises to replace my questions and fears with His Presence and His peace.

Schools closing, businesses closing, the world practically shutting down all while a virus makes its way across the globe and may already be at your door is enough to make any heart fret.

For many, it may be the very first time they feel as if there’s truly nothing to DO to protect themselves and the ones they love. And that is its own kind of panic.

Even here, even now Jesus is waiting for you to wrap those worries in prayer. A whispered prayer will do.

He hears.

He cares.

He will overwhelm your anxious heart with His peace if you let Him.

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

Julian of Norwich

I do not expect that I will necessarily be safe from this disaster but I know I will be kept safe in His love.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you worry? Do you think it helps in any way? Why or why not?
  • It’s been said that we can’t help the thoughts that fly around our head but we can decide which ones get to make a nest. Do you agree?
  • Write down three things you worry about. Use a concordance to find a verse or two that speaks directly to the things on your list. Copy them out and hang them up where you can see and be reminded of God’s faithfulness when you are tempted to doubt it.
  • What does it mean to YOU that the “peace of God…will guard your heart and mind”?
  • Read the quote by Julian of Norwich. Is it comforting? Why or why not?
  • So often we want God to make us comfortable and safe. From your own knowledge of Scripture, do you find that to be the norm for His people?
  • How can you turn your worries into whispered prayers?

PRAYER:

Lord,

These are trying times.

So, so many things to fear and so, so many things out of control. The very people I could normally depend on to guide the way or save the day are just as impotent as I am to fight this battle.

It seems the whole world is hiding away and hoping against hope it won’t get as bad as some predict.

But I am not without hope.

I have a Great and Good God who welcomes my petitions. I have a Mighty and Merciful Savior who loves me and wants to bear my worry burden.

Help me shape those worries into prayers. Help me hand off the things I can’t control to the One who can. Help me rest secure in the promise that nothing -No. Thing.-can separate me from Your love.

Let this be my watchword: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in You.” ~Psalm 56:3

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: When I Can’t Trace His Hand I Trust His Heart

No matter how much we love someone, we will eventually fail them somehow.

I know I recite my failure as a mother quite often-usually when I’m tired, weak, stressed and especially burdened with this grief I haul around like a bag of bricks every day.

So it’s hard for me to comprehend the unfailing, faithful, never-ending, compassionate love of God.

But it’s true whether I can wrap my mind around it or not: God’s love never fails.

That’s the message Jeremiah was tasked to deliver to Israel in the midst of some very awful circumstances.

They had really messed up. And they were going to reap the consequences of their sin.

It was going to hurt.

But God had not abandoned them. He had not forgotten them. He had not stopped loving them.

31 For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

Lamentations 3:31-33 NIV

The God I serve and Israel served is a compassionate God.

He is so very compassionate (which means to suffer alongside) that He chose to send His Son to take our sins, to receive our punishment, to pay the penalty and redeem us for Himself.

Grief is part of this life.

Before Jesus lived on earth, suffered, died and was resurrected, grief was part of the ongoing penalty of sin.

So Israel was punished when she turned from her true Husband and ran after idols and foreign gods.

Now, the penalty has been paid. Yet grief remains.

Our enemy the devil works evil in the world. People’s sinful choices result in death and destruction. The whole earth groans under the general burden of sin which means genes mutate, disease runs rampant and our bodies fail.

God does not always intervene.

But He always comes alongside.

He always offers comfort and promises that grief doesn’t last forever.

He takes those evil things, the broken things, the painful things and the hard things and weaves them into a beautiful tapestry that will eventually reveal His faithfulness, goodness, love and glory.

QUESTIONS:

  • I’ve written before about whether or not grief and loss is a punishment from God. Yet these verses plainly state, “though He brings grief”. How do you explain them to your own heart? Have you thought through and developed a consistent theology that both acknowledges the truth that in the OT God DID bring grief (punishment) on His people for their sins and that in the NT God, through Christ, has taken all the punishment for every sin? (For more on this, read this post: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/15/is-god-punishing-me/)
  • Have you ever felt God was suffering alongside you? Do you think God suffers at all?
  • Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. Most of His followers would have firsthand knowledge of the sacrifices a good shepherd makes for his sheep. That’s not something many of us know much about these days. Can you paint your own word picture of unfailing love?
  • Have you confronted the question of why evil exists, why pain is persistent, why death and destruction still reign? Are you afraid to go there? Why or why not?
  • I used to embroider quite a bit and really love the Corrie Ten Boom poem cited above because I understand it well. The top side of my work was lovely (most of the time!) but the underside was awful! Do you have confidence that God is weaving ALL the things in your life into a tapestry that will eventually reveal how even the dark and ugly experiences, feelings and heartache work together to make a beautiful piece of art? (See Ephesians 2:10)

PRAYER:

Father God, Thank you that I live this side of Calvary!

Thank You that although this life is filled with sorrow and pain I can rest assured that if I’ve received Your gift of forgiveness through Christ You are not punishing me for some forgotten sin. Thank You for your unfailing, faithful, compassionate love.

Help me to remember in the darkest moments, the most desolate path, the deepest pit You are there. Over and over and over You remind my heart that I am not alone. When I can’t comprehend how You might weave the next dark thread into the tapestry of my life, help me trust You anyway.

You are the Master Weaver. You are the Potter. Give me a willing heart to yield to Your work in my life.

Amen

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