Ceiling-hitters

If I asked you to make a list of sins off the top of your head, you’d likely list many of the larger, more recognizable sins: murder, theft, adultery. You might even hit a few of those sneakier ones like coveting, idol-worship, unforgiveness, and maybe even gossip. But one highly detrimental sin that would likely be left off of most lists would be worry. Maybe you’ve known for years that worry is a sin, but for me, I honestly didn’t really grasp that truth until just a few shorts years ago. It wasn’t until I became a mom and started an hourly/daily battle with {frequently overpowering} worry that I discovered I needed a better understanding of what God says about worry and the damage it causes.

If you’re reading this blog, I think I’m safe in assuming that if I were to walk up to you and ask, point blank, do you believe in God? your answer would be a solid yes. If I asked you, do you believe that the Bible is true? I bet I’d get another strong yes. It’s possible your answer to do you trust God? might be a little more wavering, especially if you’ve suffered rejection at the hands of others in your life, but I bet it’s still pretty close to yes. And finally, if I asked you, do you worry? an emphatic yes! would be what I’d get, wouldn’t it? Herein lies the rub, as Shakespeare would say. (What is up, English teachers?! Rejoice heartily at the Shakespearean reference!) As believers, we cannot both trust God and worry. Those two things aren’t friends. We either trust God–His Word, His promises, His goodness, His hand, His will–or we don’t. Again, I’m assuming, but I think I’m safe here when I say that we would NEVER verbally doubt God, especially in the presence of others, but don’t we do that ALL THE TIME and straight in the “face” of God when we choose to worry and fear over relaxing, being soulfully at peace, and trusting God?

If you are someone who struggles with worry, I highly recommend pretty much any resource by Joyce Meyer (especially Battlefield of the Mind). In a couple of her books, she has addressed the sin of worry in a way that has helped me really see it for what it is: doubt, mistrust, and disbelief in the power and goodness of God. The way she explains it is this: when we have a worry or concern, as a believer it is our job to take it to God in prayer. That prayerful petition between you and God is a positive action. It transforms your mind so that you’re focused on the positive power of God. Worry, on the other hand, is a negative action. It is in direct opposition to the positive power created by prayer. So, what this says to me is if I pray about my worries BUT I continue to worry about them instead of giving them over to God in exchange for peace, my negative worry actually cancels out that positive I had working for me because of my prayer. In other words, my power is essentially lost to the negative side because I’ve chosen worry over faith. My decision to worry soaks up all my spiritual energy and focus; therefore, there is none left for the faith required to allow my prayer to work.

The really good news here is that our human propensity for worry isn’t a surprise for God. He knows that we tend to worry, that we tend to stress, that we really struggle to hand our concerns and cares over to Him, without returning frequently to pick them back up again and worry over them some more. He was so prepared for our strong desire to handle things ourselves that He’s filled His Word with instruction after instruction to help us see worry as the sin that it is, and more importantly, make the decision to eliminate it from our lives permanently. There are multiple verses sprinkled throughout the Old Testament, but it’s in the books of the New Testament where we really see strong input from Jesus with regard to worry in the hearts and minds of His followers. In Matthew 6:31, Jesus cares for his stressed flock by telling them, “Therefore, do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy),” and He follows these instructions only three verses later by expounding on His original words: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of  its own” (vs. 34). The subject of worry gets even more attention in Mark 4:19 when we are told WHY worry is such a problem for the people of God: “…but the worries and cares of the world…creep in and choke out the Word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Wow, y’all. This is serious! If we let worry get ahold of us–in our minds and our spirits–it becomes so strong and forceful that it chokes out the truths and promises of the Word, forcing us to focus only on it. Worry turns our eyes from God and puts them onto our problem (or if you’re like me, your perceived problem…because frequently I’ll worry about a problem I don’t even have yet!).

You know how I mentioned that God’s not surprised by our worry and fear? He’s SO not surprised that He’s included a Biblical reminder for every single day of the year! Check this out: did you know that God instructs His children to “fear not” (that counts for worry, too) 365 times in the Bible? Are you also aware that there are 365 days in a year? Ta-da! God knows. What we seem to forget is that we have an instruction manual at our fingertips that guides us through this sometimes-harrowing thing we call life. It gives us detailed steps for handling the worry and fear and dread and upset that comes with being a human being on planet Earth. It’s really pretty simple: 1. Choose to trust God. 2. Continually pray, taking all of your cares and concerns to God while believing He will handle them for you (1 Peter 5:7). 3. Do not be anxious about anything. Be thankful. Be prayerful. Don’t let yourself worry (Phil. 4:6). As difficult as it seems, the good news is that we do have a choice about worry. We can wallow around in our worried thoughts, telling ourselves that we’re just “being prepared” or “being a good parent.” We can think situations through over and over and over and over and over and…you get my point. But you know what? WE ARE STILL SINNING! God is in control. God has always been in control. A favorite Joyce Meyer quote says, “The truth is we’ve never been in control when it comes to life’s crucial elements. We’ve always been dependent on the grace of God to carry us through.” We have never been in control. Gracious. If we could just get over ourselves (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Prov. 3:5-6) . If we could just remember that worry does NOTHING for us (“And who of you by worrying can add one hour to his life?” Matt. 6:27). If we could just decide that maybe our being in control isn’t really best for us or our families or our kids anyway.  I mean, if given the choice, wouldn’t you really rather God be in control?

A few months ago, while I was getting my hair done, my hairdresser Jill and I were having a conversation about this very topic: worry. I had recently been reading about it in both the Bible and Joyce Meyer’s works, and I was sharing with her the analogy that a prayer is a positive and a worry is a negative that completely cancels out the power of that prayer. Jill helped me see this in an even clearer manner when she said that it’s her belief that those prayers we issue while still worrying or attempting to control the situation ourselves just hit the ceiling, falling right back down. I thought this was such an excellent visual for me, given I was struggling to let go of the worry despite my full understanding that it was sinful. I came home from that haircut with a new way of thinking about what worry does to the power I possess as a believer. The power that Jesus DIED to give me. Those prayers that hit the ceiling because our faith is so limited and our worry is so prevalent simply fall right back down on us, on our backs, where we struggle not to buckle under their pressure and weight. Because we refuse (or fail) to turn those cares over to God (His plan, His timing, His methods), we lug those burdensome cares around with us: the heaviness of the responsibility, the discontentment, the anger, the jealousy, etc. The weight of whatever it is that we’re not trading to God in return for His peace, “the peace that transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

Real prayers release things. They release our gratitude, our worries, our stresses, and they release God’s power because we bow before Him, humbling ourselves to His power, His plan, and His solutions for our problems. Real prayers don’t fall back on us. They don’t weigh us down. They lighten our load, lifting our spirits and our faces to the glory of God. Those prayers that come back on us? Those aren’t real prayers. Those are simply disguised complaints. Adult-style fussing. Because if we talk to God about our worries only to turn around and wear the weight of them anyway, aren’t we really just talking to ourselves?

Dear Lord, I am so grateful that as your child, I don’t have to walk through life controlling every detail and leaning on my own abilities. I ask you, Father, to please help me bring my worries and concerns to you and leave them there with you. Help me to no longer pray, then worry, then pray, then worry. Lord, I want to break this cycle of taking back my prayers and believing I’m more competent than You. Thank you for loving me and for being my helper in all aspects of life. I give you my life, Lord. I give you my marriage. I give you my kid(s). I do not want to run the show. I want to simply love you, honor you, and trust you with EVERYTHING. Help me to recognize when I’m choosing worry because it feels safe and familiar so that I might change direction and choose faith. Thank you for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

 

 

Not Today, Satan!

As I write this post, the noise level right outside the wall of this room is insane. We are having some home repairs done outside, and it apparently involves jet planes landing ON MY HOUSE and drilling through incredibly thick steel. I’m pretty certain that at any given minute this outer wall is going to cease to exist. Lord, help!

Despite all the noise distractions, let me start by being totally honest: this post isn’t actually for you. This topic isn’t actually for the purpose of public consumption. It’s 110% for me personally. God has really been working on me lately regarding the amount of security I place on the money in our savings account. I know that the Bible teaches us that God wants our all. He wants us to believe in Him, to trust in Him, and to rely on Him first and foremost and above all other things. In some ways, I do this; I get it right. However, where money is concerned, I absolutely do not. More often than not, my comfort and my security come straight from the dollars accumulated in my account. My tension eases any time that number increases. (Or at least I assume it would. That number never increases, so technically, I don’t know for sure.) What I do know is that when I stopped working five years ago, our savings account looked WAY healthier than it does now. And this latest hit to it, this home repair project that we’re currently undertaking, has got me feeling every single thing but joy and peace. I so desperately want that to change, and so today’s post is my attempt to remind myself of God’s promises and His plan, of His power and His presence, and to maybe help anyone else who finds himself/herself overwhelmed by the stresses of this world.

Just to give you some idea of how much God has been working on me about this, let me tell you what all we’ve had to have done to and around our house since we cut our income in half (literally) and went to one income:

  • new hot water heater
  • new thingamajig for the new hot water heater that helps it work better and brings it up to code (isn’t my knowledge remarkable?!)
  • new dishwasher
  • new roof
  • new garage door
  • new garage door opener/motor
  • replacement of various parts/plugs in the Trailblazer and truck, along with multiple sets of new tires
  • large medical bills, mostly from our sweet girl’s early years, including our two-night, multiple-tests-inclusive stay at Arkansas Children’s Hospital a couple of years ago

And this latest project involves siding removal and replacement, gutter removal and replacement, fascia board replacement and repair (don’t worry, you don’t need to know what this is. It’s expensive and labor intensive; that’s the gist of this story), new gutter downspouts (FIVE of those suckers!), and within the first hour and a half, 500 additional dollars were added to our overall cost because the problem was bigger than they initially thought, reaching all the way to the framing boards. What in the actual world?! Needless to say, the stress dreams, tension headaches, and stomach pains have arrived as expected.

Because I have felt my peace and sense of security evaporate over all this mess, I have spent some time trying to remind myself what God promises in His Word, about taking care of us and providing for us. I know, deep down, that I will NEVER feel at peace financially if my security comes from dollars, because life is really dadgum expensive. There will be continual bills and unexpected costs for as long as I live. I also understand that if I place my trust in things other than God, I will forever be disappointed and left with this aching stomach and clinched jaw. I don’t want to live in the “I’ll be happy as soon as we make _______ amount per year,” because as soon as we make that, we’ll find a need for just a little bit more. Life involves living, and as it turns out, living costs money. Scam!

It’s become clear to me over the last few years, thanks to the guidance and clarity of the Holy Spirit, that God has allowed these expenses in our lives because I must give up my grasp on the almighty dollar. If you know me, you likely know that I am a very, very frugal person. Large costs mess me up, especially now, when we’re all living on one income. But God has shown me that as soon as we add a second income, we’ll also have a kid who is older, who’s involved in costly activities, wearing costly clothes, and who will apparently expect to drive her own vehicle one day and attend that wallet-emptier called college. No matter where we are in life financially, if that bank account is where I turn for my peace and my security, IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN because there will ALWAYS be costs we can’t anticipate and plan for. And guess what else I’ve learned…Satan knows this! He is such a complete jerk that he knows and exploits just how much peace I derive from knowing my account is cushy. He sneaks around and as soon as we happen upon another repair or expense, he’s there whispering in my ear about how much this costs, how draining this will be on our savings. But he seldom stops there, deciding to up the fear factor by encouraging me to catalog every single thing around this house that might go wrong or that might stop working.

I don’t know about you, but I do NOT want to live like this. I am an adult. I own a home, some vehicles, and I have a child. There will NEVER EVER be a time that something isn’t costing me money. That’s literally all there is to it. I refuse to live in this up-and-down peace that fluctuates to the point of disappearing any time I have to pay money for something. Remember that phrase that Abraham and Sarah used to refer to God: Jehovah-jireh. It means “the Lord who provides,” and my Bible tells me that the same God who provided then is the same God who WILL provide for me now. But because I’m a headcase, I need to see those scriptures; I need to read those promises straight from God’s Word. I need to be able to yell, “NOT TODAY, SATAN!!” when he tries to steal my peace and joy via money, and be able to back it up with scripture that proves why I don’t have to stress and worry about a thing.

I found many verses in the Bible regarding what God promises about our prosperity and/or finances. There were several that helped me see just how involved in my monetary life God is. I couldn’t find room to embed them all in the post, but I thought that those of you struggling with something similar might appreciate seeing several of those promises for yourself. I encourage you to read them out loud. Read them multiple times even. Take a quiet minute to do this, and I know that you’ll feel God speaking to your stresses, just like I felt Him speaking to mine.

Deuteronomy 8:18–But you shall [earnestly] remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…

Deuteronomy 28:8–The Lord shall command the blessing upon you in your storehouse and all that you undertake. And He will bless you…

Deuteronomy 28:11–And the Lord shall make you have a surplus of prosperity

Psalm 34:10–…they who seek [inquire of and require] the Lord, none of them shall lack any beneficial thing

Luke 6:38–Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over…

2 Corinthians 9:6–He who sows generously will also reap generously and with blessings.

Philippians 4:18-19–I have everything I need and am amply supplied…And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

All of the aforementioned scriptures certainly got the message across, but it wasn’t until I read Matthew 6:25-27 again, in the midst of my stress and angst over money worries, that I really felt myself letting go of at least a little bit of my desire to control my money and my life. These words are straight out of the mouth of our Savior, so read them carefully: “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure to his stature or to the span of his life? (AMP). You know what? I am more important to God than a bird. You know what? I have never had to go without because God has always provided. You know what? God promises not to neglect us at any time in any way, and He is a promise keeper. You know what? Worry is a sin, and it cripples my faith. Worry doesn’t grow money; it doesn’t eliminate those unexpected costs and expenses; it doesn’t ease my mind. It is a deterrent, keeping me focused on my problems and the situations I’m facing instead of on God and His powers to provide exactly what I need when I need it.

In speaking with a friend about her own money worries recently, I told her to pray about it and let God have it. Needless to say, I also told her to do as I say and not as I do when it comes to this lesson. I encouraged her and her husband to do four things: 1– to pray specifically about their finances, 2–to tithe, 3– to spend their money wisely, and 4–to let God take care of the rest because HE WILL. Now, if I can just get this lesson into my own stubborn brain, I’ll be in much better shape for the rest of my life.

Dear Lord, thank you so very much for all that you continually do for me and all that you continually provide for me and my family. I am so grateful that you are a Provider and that I don’t have to worry about finances because you will lead me and safeguard me. Lord, I ask that you please help me to set aside my worries in all areas but especially right now regarding my finances, and I ask that you help me to focus on you and your promises instead of my anxieties and the lies of the enemy. I will not go without, God, and I know this because you have promised it. Also, Lord, I want a pure heart whose focus is You, not money. In Matthew 6:21 you tell me that wherever my treasure is, there my heart will be also. You, God. You are my treasure. You are my safety and security, and I ask you to please help me recognize this truth and live this truth more and more. You are kind and loving and a giving God, and I am so grateful to be Your child. Thank you for hearing me, for loving me, and providing for my every need. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.