When we are presented with alternatives to things the purpose is to give us a choice. We can have peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and honey, or just peanut butter - based on our "mood" of the day, we choose what comes closest to our desired sandwich. Alternatives are just a lot of choices. If you have ever gone into a restaurant with pages and pages of menu items, bound together in a spiral bound book of sorts, you probably have been so frustrated by all the choices you just chose your old "stand by" because you couldn't decide fast enough! When in doubt, it's a hamburger for me! The problem with "too many" choices is the increased anxiety a multitude of choices actually affords.
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)
When the choices are many, the anxiety associated with making the "right" choice is also significantly higher than when the choices are simply this or that. At least we stand a 50/50 chance of getting our choice right with the latter example, but with the spiral-bound menu of choices, who knows what the odds might be? There is something to be said about "limiting the choices", isn't there? With small children, I don't give them a litany of choices - I present one or the other. Why? When presented with two items, they want the both - when presented with fifty items, they want them all - but they can only have one! It is much easier to teach right choices when the options are fewer! God knows this, too! So does the enemy of our souls! He knows presenting us with so many choices which baffle our minds is a good place to get us in the middle of a muddle. He likes it when we are in a muddle!
Recently, as with each and every winter season which comes, our hospital "business" has increased. Sickness abounds, people are under the weather, and sick people need the care of seasoned professionals - so they head to the emergency room and soon find their way to our waiting beds. As the capacity to accept more and more patients begins to lessen due to more demand than beds, we find the stress levels beginning to increase for those of us taking care of those in need of our services. Why? Increased demands are just as befuddling to us as are too many choices! When the demands on our schedules, skills, or services are many, the anxiety associated with these many demands increases, as well.
If choices and demands can increase our anxiety to fever-pitch, maybe it is time we learn how to collaborate with the only one who can really direct us to the right choice and settle us into a place of inner peace in the midst of the chaos. Learning to shape our choices and stressors into prayers is fundamental to keeping ourselves out of the middle of the muddle. So many think prayers have to be these elaborate, well-orchestrated, divine-sounding, stop all activity, get on your knees words lifted to the heavens. The Lord has heard more "fly-by" prayers from me in my times of increased demand and uncertain choices than I can shake a stick at! If I waited to get down onto my knees, I'd never get things sorted out!
All God desires is for us to make our concerns known to him - he doesn't care if it is on the "fly" or on our knees! He just wants the opportunity to connect. I cannot tell you how many times I have been in the middle of a mess of stress and just asked him to give me guidance - short and sweet. In a matter of just a short time, he begins to settle in around me with his peace and I can focus on what matters, getting direction on how to proceed and then it seems like the stressors get put into the right perspective. When things are in the right perspective - or at least I can see them from that perspective - they look a lot less "anxiety-laden" than they did before! I echo Paul's comments: "It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."
Life happens at a pace we can barely manage sometimes. In those moments of "over-activity", it is good to re-center, re-connect, and re-commit. Re-centering means we change our focus from the increasing demand and innumerable choices toward Christ and his leading in those moments. Re-connecting means we just take a moment or two to just offer up those prayers and then just listen. We may think we don't have the time to listen, but remember this - the amount of time you invest in listening equates to less time in the midst of the muddle. Re-committing is really the outcome of the first two - when we get our focus right and allow our hearts to be connected to the one who knows the answers, the ability to make the choice in front of us or deal with the demand which is the most urgent becomes apparent.
It doesn't take much to settle into God's peace - sometimes it only takes a moment to allow the sense of God's wholeness to permeate our inner core and settle us right down. Just sayin!