No worries

“Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7

Twenty-one years ago, I stood next to a new crib watching our first son sleep peacefully. It was close to midnight, and I was exhausted, but I simply could not rest. I was terrified that while I slept, something would happen to him. I remember being annoyed that my husband could go to sleep with no trouble at all. How could he sleep knowing that something terrible might happen? During a period of about six months, I was a mess. I cried during the day out of anxiety, and my sleep was interrupted by episodes of panic. But one day our pastor shared this verse with me, and it transformed my life. You see, I had spent a good portion of my life worrying. My new son was just one more reason to be anxious. I worried about finances, my health, my future, my job, you name it. All this changed when I began to put this verse into practice.

In this verse we are told not to be “anxious about anything.” That’s right. Anything. Anxiety is useless, as Jesus reminded his disciples time and again. And since we are told NOT to be anxious or worry, this indicates that it is a choice on our part. When we choose anxiety, we are telling God that we simply do not trust Him to handle our problems and fears.

Secondly, He wants us to come to him with our concerns, “tell your requests to God.” Are you worried about your marriage? Tell Him. Are you anxious about your job? Tell Him. Is a family member sick? Tell Him. You have a choice every moment of every day: to worry or to pray. It’s really that simple. Praying instead of worrying is an act of faith. When we pray and tell our troubles to God, we are demonstrating our belief in his ability to handle it.

Finally, when we pray and present our requests to him, we are given “the peace of God….which will guard our hearts and minds.” When we dwell on thoughts of fear and anxiety, it affects our actions, words, and emotions. But God offers us peace. How foolish of us to choose panic, stress, and anxiety instead. Why worry when you can pray?

Tired?

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” Matthew 11:28-29

When my sons were younger, we would often take walks around our neighborhood. Inevitably, each one would want to bring a favorite toy or ride a tricycle, scooter, or skateboard on our adventure. They would race ahead of me at the beginning of our journey, but by the end, they would each tire, and I would find myself lugging their playthings back home. They were simply too small and weak to finish the journey without my help.

Maybe you are entering the new year in the same way, burdened with things that are simply too heavy to bear any longer. If that is the case, these verses are for you. Notice that the passage begins with an invitation, “Come to me.” Jesus wants us to enjoy an intimacy and fellowship with him, and the invitation is for “all who are weary and burdened.” Are you carrying something that weighs you down, perhaps not physically, but emotionally or spiritually? Are you struggling with the death of a loved one, a serious illness, marital struggles, financial difficulties, the list is long. But Jesus promises that if you come to him you will find “rest for your souls.”

The next section seems confusing. Aren’t yokes heavy and cumbersome? How does this make things easier? But in this passage, Jesus is not seeking to burden us further. He states, “learn from me.” This indicates a willingness on our part to submit to Him and his authority and to learn from Him for he is “gentle and humble.” When we come to Him, submit to Him, and learn from Him, we will find rest.

I have found this to be true time and again in my own life. When Michael was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004, we were heartbroken and overwhelmed. We cried out to God in sorrow and anger and frustration, not once, but many times. But in the midst of that darkness and confusion, God became a place of refuge and rest, despite our circumstances. As my family enters 2019, we don’t know what God has in store, but we trust Him, and He has given us “rest for our souls.”

Who,me?

“O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Exodus 4:13

Most people consider Moses to be one of the spiritual giants of the Bible, and if you’re anywhere near my age, you remember the classic movie The Ten Commandments.In that famous production, Moses was played by Charlton Heston: commanding, brave, a man’s man. Even people relatively unfamiliar with the Bible know about the parting of the Red Sea and how Moses led the Israelites to the Promised Land. However, the aspect of Moses’ story that I want to focus on today is an episode tucked between his rescue from the river by Pharaoh’s daughter and his triumphant march through the parted waters of the Red Sea. In this passage, he doesn’t seem quite the spiritual giant that most of us recognize. When Moses gets a glimpse of the burning bush and hears God’s plan for him, he balks. He spends most of Exodus 4 arguing with God and making excuses for why he is simply NOT the right man for the job. His final plea is “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”

Most of us have quite a bit in common with Moses. God has a plan for each one of us, but many times, we want to argue with God about it, and we often ask, “Who, me?” We are ready with a host of excuses on why we are simply not the right person for the job. Maybe God is calling you to invite someone to church, to bring a neighbor a meal, to lead worship, to teach a class, to start a prayer group. God often calls us OUT of our comfort and routine to do something we’ve never done before. It would have been much easier for Moses to just continue tending sheep in the desert, but God had a bigger plan that Moses simply couldn’t fully see. Moses felt inadequate for the job, but God promised to go with him and equip him with the skills he needed. He will do the same for you. What is God calling you to do in 2019? Whatever the task, his promise to you is the same as the one to Moses, “Go, I will help you…”

Rejoice!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:4-5

I cannot think of a more appropriate verse for the first day of 2019. New Year’s Day is typically one of hope and promise. Most of us make a list of resolutions to accomplish in the coming months: exercise more, read more, learn a new skill, spend more time with family, lose weight. On this day, more than any other, we are resolved to improve in some way. But sometimes in the hustle and bustle, we forget that spiritual improvement is essential to improvement in all other areas. I think this verse holds the key to our outlook for the new year, and if we put it into practice, who knows what God has in store for us! I want to focus on three components of it:

  1. It’s an imperative
  2. It’s repeated
  3. It’s a reminder

First, “rejoice” is written as an imperative or command. This is not a suggestion or a gentle reminder. The writer of Philippians is commanding his readers to rejoice. Notice also that there is no “unless” in this sentence. Rejoice unless your bills aren’t paid, you’re sick, you’re angry, you’re having a bad day, you’re car won’t start, you’re battling cancer…the list is endless. We simply do not get a pass on our circumstances. We are told to rejoice.

Secondly, the writer clearly knows human nature. He anticipates the arguments or reasons for refusal listed above and repeats his imperative, “I say it again: rejoice!” Remember that this letter was written by a man acquainted with hardship. Paul was imprisoned, beaten, and maligned during his lifetime, yet he rejoiced. We are to do the same, no matter our circumstances.

How is this possible? In the midst of suffering, heartbreak, financial instability, broken marriages, sickness, and death, how can we be expected to rejoice. Paul reminds us with the simple statement, “The Lord is near.” The Lord has promised “never to leave us or forsake us” and THAT is how we can rejoice. He is with us; he fights our battles; he loves us and will never leave us.

On this day full of hope and promise, we have a choice to either rejoice in the Lord or complain about our circumstances. Sadness over our circumstances is not wrong, even Jesus wept, but choosing joy over grumbling is an act of faith. My husband is currently battling a stage 4 cancer, but we both choose to rejoice. Why? The Lord is near, and he is mighty to save. Let’s add rejoicing to our resolution list and see what God has in store.