Why pray when you can worry?

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Anxiety is part of my life. Even on the best days, when I have little reason to worry, it’s there; idling but ready to roar to life in a moment. On tough days, feelings of dread and doom become overwhelming. It shows up in the middle of the night, robbing me of sleep as thoughts tumble. It comes at mid-day whispering in my ear that life is out of control and failure is imminent.

Those who just experience occasional anxiety that is related to a specific issue of stress have no idea how difficult it can be to deal with the inner fury of worry while meeting the challenges of everyday life. Telling a person who wrestles with anxiety to ‘calm down,’ is a little like trying to put out a fire with a hose spraying gasoline! It just makes it worse, much worse.

Where does anxiety come from? The jury is out on that. Is it just the way my brain is wired? Did it come from my past experience? Does it reflect a place where faith is growing, a place where Truth is still taking root? My own conclusion is that anxiety has parts of all the above.  While I understand anxiety as a ‘normal’ part of my life (and for everybody at least some of the time), I also recognize that I need not surrender to it as I make the daily choice to refuse the mastery of fear and worry!

The word of God is clear that His plan is not for us to live in fear and dread, that anxiety is a denial of our birthright as His child. Jesus, in His famed manifesto of the Kingdom, (Matthew 5,6, 7) includes these words- “Do not worry!”  He says we can make a choice and He desires that we choose His care!  

I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25, NIV)  “Figure out your priorities,” He says, “and start to tell yourself that you are more than your stuff.”  People who belong to Him know that their lives are not wrapped up in getting and hanging onto the ‘necessities’ of life. Godless people live for those things.

What, then is the focus of those who belong to Him?   “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34, NIV)  Put God first, confess His care, and do what He asks of you. The result is that He promises that we will have enough.

Does that instantly erase anxiety? Nope, it doesn’t, but it is a starting place from which the Spirit can lead us to mastery over anxious thoughts.

Paul, who may well have wrestled with anxiety, builds on Jesus’ invitation to daily trust in the Lord. He was inspired to write this (from prison, by the way) – Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-10, NIV)

Make the Lord your joy; not things, not accomplishments, not pleasure.  Rejoice in the Lord. Psalm 34 explains how. “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are discouraged take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:1-3, NLT)  Create a life of worship – full of praise, that offers genuine thanks to God for the little beauties you see. Join with His people to ‘magnify’ Him.

Pray often. Do you understand prayer? We pray with sighs, with laughter, with tears, with songs, and even with words.  When anxiety shows up, tell God about it, and ask for His grace to overcome. This isn’t just about positive thinking, nor is it about ‘psyching’ yourself up for the day.  God, the Holy Spirit, finds a place alongside of us from which we gain peace that is unfathomable in a turbulent world.

Order your thought life.  Right thinking produces right living. God asks us to set aside hateful thoughts, to reject selfish thoughts, to refuse to wallow in lustful thoughts – replacing those patterns with true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy thinking.  For some, getting the right kind of thought patterns in place may require working with a therapist to dig out the lies and replace them with the truth. And, there is nothing to be ashamed of in that!

By faith, claim your birthright as God’s child – peace!  Ultimately, this peace of God comes from peace with God and that is His gift of grace, given to us through faith in Christ Jesus.

Here is a word from the Word. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV)  Amen.

____________

O Come To The Altar
(worship with Elevation and know grace)

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

 O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

 Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

 Oh what a Savior
Isn’t he wonderful
Sing alleluia Christ is risen
Bow down before him
For he is Lord of all
Sing alleluia Christ is risen

 Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found

Chris Brown | Mack Brock | Steven Furtick | Wade Joye© 2015 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI License # 810055

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