Please tell me, anyone, if, after you pour out your worries to someone and they say, "Oh, don't worry about that," do you actually stop worrying?
And this has happened to me many times.
But let's change the scene a little bit. I am holding my five year old in my arms in the middle of the night and she is just shaking. Mind you, I am not at my best snugglest-tenderest-self when awakened in the middle of the night. My goal is to go back to sleep, asap, for all involved. But here she is, terrified. Sweating and trembling, she tells me what has her so anxious, “Mama! It was a storm! A THUNDERSTORM!” There is no storm. She dreamed it. But her eyes are saucers.
“Don’t worry Maddie. Mama is here.” I pray over her and she visibly relaxes. She is soon fast asleep and I slip back to my room.
The difference? Who's saying it.
In the first example, the exhortation, “Don’t worry”, (which the Bible uses many, many times) was tossed out like a pruned branch from my front garden beds. It lacks the support, the power that Scripture offers with it. Namely, the presence of God Himself, which makes all the difference.
The struggle against anxiety is real. Sometimes I think I struggle more than most! I never used to call it that, mind you, but the more I learn about anxiety in and out of Scripture, it is exactly what plagues me.
I worry about my kids and their development and character; I worry about my husband and all of his goals and fears and struggles; I worry about the outreach work and the team and the endless number of things to do. I worry about the house — all the tiny things that need to be done now or then that make everything run smoothly in a day and (mostly) meet everyone’s needs.
I am thinking back and wondering how I did things. I am thinking ahead and wondering how things will turn out. I am ruminating, wondering, worrying about everything. Like a hamster, my brain gravitates to my pet concerns and I start running in my wheel the moment no one is talking to me or needing my attention. And what’s more? I feel so productive rehearsing all these things — I don’t (didn’t) really want to stop this habit. Though I have tried.
But something changed last week that gave me great pause. I was sick. Very sick. I came down with strep throat after a conference and within a day I was burning high fevers and sleeping most of the day. Between the infection and my recovery, I was mostly in bed for 6 days straight.
And do you know what happened to my home, my kids, my husband, my worries? Nothing. I mean, if you talk to Joel, I don’t think he would say “nothing” happened. It was a rough week for him. But he stepped up to the plate and got what needed to be done, done.
All while I was in bed.
Why am I telling you this? Because on day 5, I woke up at 3 in the morning. And immediately started turning on my hamster wheel over something I hadn't worried about in 5 whole days. But, the wheel was a little creaky from disuse. A bit dusty, maybe getting a bit of rust here and there. And I noticed. But in the quiet of the gray light in my room, I felt the Spirit say, “Don’t worry, Rachel. I am here.”
Gradually, as my throat healed and my temperature normalized, and I took back my responsibilities from a very grateful husband, it dawned on me like the blooming of the tulips in our park. The way the Spirit unfolds truth little by little exactly when we’re ready — the command to not worry is a command. But exactly like every other command in Scripture, our obedience to it is based on something — namely, God Himself. He never asks us to pull this off on our own. Because we can’t.
Are you, like me, weary with all the worry? Do you read verses like, “Do not be anxious” and feel, well, anxious? “How will I pull THAT off and still get everything done?” It just seems an unfair platitude. But can I put this forward to you — and to me?
He’s with us.
I have tried many, many times to not be anxious. I want to trust Him. I want to be a woman of peace. But I have failed. Over and over again, no matter my resolve. Can you relate?
This time, I took it to Him and said, “Lord, You know how much I dislike these verses. You also know how many times I have tried to do this. Tried to obey. And failed. But You also know how deeply I want to set this sin aside and be free from the enormous burden of anxiety. Can You just tell me when I am ruminating? Just let me know when I am getting on the wheel? Just like you did that night?”
And these verses came to mind, so I looked them up. Friend, they brought me to tears. The sentence actually starts in verse 5 so I’ll leave the verse numbers:
“The Lord is at hand; (6) do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7).
The Lord is at hand. Where is your hand, friend? Right there. With you. He is far more at hand than I am with my children at night. At the tip of our fingers — healing the woman with an issue of blood; the leper he told to “reach out your hand”; then Peter’s mother-in-law who was too sick to reach out; drawing Peter out of the waves and handing out portion after portion of bread and fish. He heals, He saves, He feeds. He was at hand then and He’s at hand now.
So present, in fact, He is in you. And He delights to help you. And the power to do what He asks is in Him too. All that He asks in Scripture is too much for us. Satan actually has us spinning our wheels thinking we can do this by our own strength. But truly, we cannot. He can. He actually is the only one to do “all things well.” And He works obedience in us and brings fruit from us. We listen, we ask, we depend on, and we trust Him.
Then we go out into the world and soon, we’re worrying again. So He says, “You’re worrying. Would you like to give that to me?” And we say, “Yes… help me give it to You.” It's an eternal turning over of our concerns and taking of His strength. Over and over, we bring not our success but our need. Over and over again we trust Him to meet these needs. Over and over again, we see a bit of growth and we thank Him for His work in our lives.
And we continue. Worrying, stopping, humbly turning, trusting, growing, thanking. And the peace of God starts to rule in our hearts where anxiety once did. Why? Progress, not perfection. How? We don’t know. He did it.
I need this, which is why I wrote it. And because I need it so much, and this is not all that Paul wrote in that chapter, my next few posts on the blog will be part of a series. I’ll be digging into the “whatevers” of Philippians 4 in no particular order. They are all adjectives that describe the things that we CAN allow to fill our minds and hearts and work into our souls. These are things that bring joy and light and life and fill our minds with good things, resulting in more good things.
We’ll be reaching out to the One who is always at hand.
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As always thank you for reading!