An Alternative to Worry

“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 (The Message) Whew! Finally it's Friday! Today, I have the opportunity to go on a women's retreat with the dear ladies at our church. These are special times that come only once every 3 years, so I am looking forward to it! The last time I went, I was nursing a baby, so despite the hassle, I still went, pump and all. This time, I'm looking forward to soaking in and enjoying what the Lord has for me this weekend...without a pump!

If you've been following the blog over the past few weeks, you'll know that we have been going through a lot. Between my many health tests and our putting our house up on the market, I have had many opportunities to worry. As I was sitting down to write my monthly newsletter, I found myself going back to Philippians 4:6-7. It has been a passage I have memorized in years past, highlighted in my Bible and shared with my children. But God sure made it come to life this month! (Side note: If you haven't signed up for my newsletter, I encourage you to do so. This issue will focus on the topic of thanksgiving, just in time for November!)

When it comes to worrisome circumstances, there are at least two things I do with it. Sometimes the circumstances weigh me down so that I become overwhelmed and unable to move. Or, on the other hand, I tend to take things into my own hands and try to fix my circumstances, to get out of this uncomfortable place that I am in.

Paul tells us to do neither. Instead, he teaches us to spend our energies in the work of prayer. We are not to fret. We are not to worry. These things only keep our eyes focused on the problem at hand. They sap us of the strength we need to pray.

For me, I tend to think that God only hears my prayers when I am on my best behavior. I have the false belief that He really doesn’t want to hear my complaints, fears or worries. (Maybe that’s more a reflection on how I parent than it is on who He really is! But Paul tells us to let God know our concerns, share our hearts with Him. I do not need to phrase my words with euphemisms or fake a happy heart.

The hardest part was not the tests itself. It was the waiting for the results. It was during those times that I found my mind tempted to worry and fret. But it was also in these times that the Lord challenged me to discipline myself to apply Paul’s admonition.

The natural response of the flesh is to be anxious. But Paul shows us a far better solution, and that solution is prayer. However, it isn’t just any kind of prayer. It is humble prayer that is filled with thanksgiving.

I really like Eugene Peterson’s translation of this verse in The Message: “Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.” It’s not demanding. It doesn’t insist on a particular outcome. It is simply coming to God with a heart full of thanksgiving—even in the midst of our trials—and letting Him know the concerns of our hearts.

Am I letting the things that are on my heart come out in the form of prayer or do I try to figure out a solution on my own? This has been particularly challenging for me, especially in those situations where I think I can do something. Like I mentioned, it's the waiting time that is the hardest. God has had to retrain my way of responding. When I begin to worry and dwell on my troubles, I have been praying that God will trigger a reminder to come to Him in prayer instead of trying to carry my burdens on my own.

I confess that I am not very good at prayer. Bible study, solitude and silence, even fasting, I will do those. But somehow, prayer seems too passive for me. However, the way Paul describes prayer, it’s anything but passive. It is very active. In this type of prayer, I am fully engaged, pouring my heart out to God. But it is more than just me rattling off a list of my desires and wishes.

As I began praying over the issues that were before me, I began to see that prayer isn’t my way of changing God. It is how God changes me. Prayer is not a manipulative effort on my part to twist God’s arm to do what I want Him to do. It is His way of settling my soul, opening my heart so that it is ready to receive whatever He desires to give me.

We have a choice when worries come our way. Big or small, these can become opportunities for us to draw close to Him and to bring them to the Lord. He's waiting. He's listening.

Challenge: What is worrying you now? Health issues---either your own or someone you love? Financial problems? Wayward children? Marital pain or estrangement? Difficult work circumstances? Whatever it is, are you willing to let the Lord in on the burden?

PS One big ingredient to prayer is thanksgiving. I've purposely saved this for my newsletter, but don't want you to think that I'm glossing over it. If you want to read the rest of it, I encourage you to sign up in the box on the right!