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

Prayers I Still Pray, Part II

As I mentioned yesterday, prayer after loss is complicated for me.  I wrote a post months ago The Problem of [Un]Answered Prayer that addressed this.

But I AM able to pray Scripture-especially the prayers of Paul, which are centered on asking God to strengthen others and to expand their understanding of His love, compassion, power and grace.

Here are two more that I find helpful:

Philippians 1:9-11

phil 1_9 feet

I pray

  • that ___’s love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
  • that___may be able to discern what is best, and
  • that____may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,
  • that___will be filled with the fruit of righteousness through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God.

 

Colossians 1:9-12

Father, I pray

  • that You will fill___with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
  • that___may live a life worthy of You, Lord,
  • that____may please You in every way,
  • that___will bear fruit in every good work,
  • that___will grow in the knowledge of You,
  • that___will be strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might,
  • that___may have great endurance and patience,
  • that___will joyfully give thanks to You, Father, who has qualiied them to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

Today by Your Spirit make real all their inheritance in Christ Jesus.

col 1_9

Resurrection Power

I’m uncomfortable here in this world.

This world where children die and people hurt one another and justice is denied and babies go hungry.

I long for the day prophesied in Isaiah when the lion will lie down with the lamb, swords will be ploughshares and death will be banished forever.

Paul wrote:

All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life.

Philippians 3:10-11 GNT

He wasn’t only talking about the final resurrection, when all in Christ shall rise and reign forever with their Savior.

He was also talking about the earthly resurrection-of life breathed into who we are and what we do by the Spirit of God living in us.

It’s exciting to think about the life of Christ residing in me.  It’s not so exciting to consider the death of self that must precede that life.

But

Without death, there is no resurrection.  

Without destruction, there is no restoration.

Without surrender, there is no victory.

My heart rebels against this.

I want life without death.  I want resurrection power without the grave.  I want to know Jesus more intimately without being stripped bare and standing naked before Him.

But that is impossible.  

To be a follower of the Crucified means , sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact.

Elisabeth Elliot

I realized very soon after the news of Dominic’s death reached my ears that the last vestige of pride had been ripped from my heart by force.

I was, and am, in the dust.

I cannot raise myself from this prostrate position.  I cannot breathe life into this dead body. I cannot, by force of will, pick up and keep going.

I am fully reliant on the God Who made me to give me life.

But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me, my glory and the lifter up of mine head.

Psalm 3:3 KJV21

This isn’t news to God, it’s always been true.  

But He has opened my eyes.

Forced to face the darkness of the grave, I can more fully appreciate the light of His promise.

victory over death

 

The End of the Story?

I have to keep telling myself that no matter how it looks right now, this is not the end of the story.  

Every morning I’m reminded by the “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” of my early rising roosters, that the light is coming….

Read the rest here:  Crowing in the Dark