Instead of worry, we are to pray. Instead of gloom and doom, we are to praise. Instead of hatred, we are to walk in love. In the Bible, there are a whole lot of "instead of" statements. Sometimes we see them as don't do this, but do this; put off this, put on that; or don't go that way, but follow this path. Regardless, of the wording, the intent is the same - we are NOT to pursue some course of action and we are to embrace readily another. I don't think these words are in scripture for pleasant reading - they are instruction which will save us tons of regret if we will just heed them. Today's "instead of" instruction is that of worry. It is not "don't worry, be happy", but rather "don't worry, pray". Too many times, we think if we will just pursue this or that which promises happiness, all our worries will just melt away. Okay, I gotta ask . . . how's that working for you?
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 MSG)
Paul's instructions are quite plain - don't worry or fret. Don't torment yourself with disturbing thoughts. Did you realize that was what worry was - tormenting thoughts? I once heard we are "borrowing from tomorrow what belongs in tomorrow" when we worry. I kind of like that illustration, for we bring the things which we imagine will torment us tomorrow into our today and then they actually do torment us because they weren't intended to be in our today! Imagine the difference we'd experience if we'd just let the stuff which belongs in tomorrow to stay there until we are ready to deal with it right there!
I like the way this passage describes letting our petitions and praises shape our worries into prayers. Isn't this exactly how we allow God to take care of our concerns? When we are open enough to share what is on our minds, God is willing to take them into his care. What shapes you? If you have a tendency to worry, you might just be surprised how much those things you are constantly muddling over in your mind have "shaped" your life. What messes with your mind shapes you. What you allow to "mess up" your mind also has a powerful effect on you!
What settles a mind? Isn't it the peace of God? How does the peace of God come? It comes when we are willing to take the "muddle" in our minds and speak it forth to him. It isn't "natural" to "give up" these thoughts, though. It is something which requires our concerted effort. Since we gravitate toward "mulling things over and over" in our minds, it is only when we "focus" on getting them out of there that we are finally free from them. This is probably why Paul instructed us to shape our worries into prayers and praise! The formation of these worries into prayers and opportunities for praise is what actually allows us to finally get them into the open and into his hands. This is the actual place of release. It isn't in the muddling, it is in the praying and praising where release comes.
Worries are often not spoken. They are maintained in the recesses of our minds and allowed to create all kinds of additional concerns than the original "worry" ever possessed. This is the silliness of holding onto things God asks us to let go of in the first place - they rapidly become monumental things and we just don't realize how "out of control" they get until we FEEL out of control. The way "out" of worry is really not so much in what we "do", but in what we "express". Prayer and praise are both expressions of our heart - they give "voice" to what is hidden within. Worry is a "hidden" thing for most of us - if we want freedom from it, we might just need to bring what has been "hidden away" in our hearts for quite some time into the open! Just sayin!