"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."--Phil. 4:6, 7 Do you feel worried or anxious today? Some of my worries today were worrying about whether or not I'll be prepared to facilitate today's Sunday school class for my husband while he is away speaking at a retreat, whether I'd have enough gas in the car, and what to do with my daughter while the two of us were home together all weekend. Some of the things that I worry about are not short-lived like these. They include anxiety over how to structure my kids' curriculum as a home educator or longer term worries like whether my kids would be able to get a good job or whether they will stay faithful to Jesus.
This morning, our Sunday school class spent some time looking at worry and contrasting it with concern. James Bryan Smith, in his book, The Good and Beautiful Life, says "Worry is a disproportionate level of concern based on an inappropriate measure of fear. Concern, caution and care are all acceptable and even necessary, but worry is what happens when we go beyond these and fear what we can't control. Worry leads to anxiety; it is impossible to be anxious without having first worried. When we feel anxious we can be sure that we are no longer being careful; we are worrying."
Jesus Himself tells that that we are not to worry (Matt. 6:31), but instead to "seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things [clothing, food in particular] will be given to you as well." (v. 33) There seems to be a fine line between concern and worry. How do we know when we have crossed that line?
If you feel yourself getting anxious and worried, I hope you know that God does not intend you to bear it alone. If you are feeling "weary and burdened", Jesus invites you to come to him, and He will give you rest. He desires to exchange your heavy yoke for His, one that is light and easy (Matt. 11:28-30). It doesn't mean that He will take all your burdens away. He simply exchanges that burden for His. I don't believe He means for you to take more than is necessary. Responsible, yes. Worry, no.
During our class this morning, I led an open prayer time for those who were present. I had them ask the Lord to bring to mind an anxiety or worry that was on their hearts this morning, and we practiced Phil. 4:6, 7 on that worry or concern. If you have a worry or concern today, I hope that these questions will help guide you so that you can learn to bear what is yours to bear while learning to let go of the things that are not.
- Start by asking the Lord to help you formulate your concern. Be as specific as possible. "Heavenly Father, I bring before you my concern about_______________________." I prayed about my relationship with my daughter, and specifically about how I wasn't sure how to reach her heart. I worried about losing influence in her life.
- Ask the Lord to help you to get to the heart of your worry. Is it rooted in a false belief? Fear? Unfounded concern? Take time to be silent. Let Him open your eyes to see what's beneath the surface. "Please show me how You see this concern. Is there anything that I need to know?" For me, I realized that I had believed that because I didn't have a good relationship with my mother, that I would not be able to have a good relationship with my daughter. God showed me that I am not doomed to repeat my past experiences.
- If the Lord reveals any sin on your part, take time to confess it before Him. I had to confess my unbelief and doubt that God could help me to raise my daughter differently.
- Ask the Lord to show you what is your responsibility. "What is your yoke for me to bear? What is my responsibility?" The Lord reminded me that my job is to continue to reach out to her, regardless of her response or lack of it. My work is to unconditionally love even when it feels awkward, to invite her to relationship, to let Him help me to learn how to not make judgments on her, and to be available when she needs me, even at inconvenient times. My bigger work is to keep praying faithfully and to obey the Lord when He opens opportunities to connect with her.
- Ask the Lord what you need to let go of and pass on to Him. I needed to let go of how my daughter responded and to accept her as she was instead of trying to make things work out by my own strength. When I take things into my own hands, I noticed that I tended to try too hard to make things work out for us, which makes her retreat even more. I needed to let Him guide me instead of trying to fix it myself.
- Phil. 4:6, 7 tells us to be present our requests with thanksgiving. What can you be thankful for in your request? "I thank You, Lord, for __________________________." I realized I could be thankful that I had an opportunity today to build my relationship with her. I thanked Him for a beautiful young lady that He was cultivating, that I could be a part of her life, and that He gives new hope through Jesus.
- Lastly, spend some time soaking in His peace that passes all comprehension, knowing that your requests are in good hands. I am beginning to learn to trust Him to lead our relationship and to believe that He can use me to minister to her heart. It is not up to me. In that I find peace. He cares about my relationship with my daughter and will show me how to live differently. Because of Him, there is hope for us.
May you find the Lord more than able to carry your burdens.