All of us experience some form of set-backs in life. Some are only little ones, others more catastrophic. When we come up against those things which might seem a little daunting, I wonder what our immediate response might be? For many of us, it is to immediately begin to "fret" or "worry", rather than immediately take the need to Christ in prayer. What seems so basic, and easy to understand, is quite different in the heat of the moment. We almost want to "mull it over" a little before we release it into the hands of the one most capable of helping us see our way around the mess in the first place. We have a running joke with my mother, saying if she had nothing to worry about, she'd worry about not worrying. This may be closer to the truth for many of us than we might want to admit!
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)
Instead of worrying - pray. As I stated, such simple instructions, but way more difficult to "actualize" than we might expect! To actually let go of our worries, we have to hand them over to another and this is where we struggle. The challenge given is really that of a conditioned response - "INSTEAD" of this, "DO" this. It is learned - replacing one behavior with another. When we were little tots, we learned how much more freedom and speed we could actually experience once we got up from all fours and started walking upright. In just a short period of time, we saw the advantages of making this transition from one "learned behavior" to another. Crawling became a thing of the past and walking soon was replaced with running! What happened was the willingness on our part to let go of the old and adapt to the new.
In place of worry - pray. Instead of allowing something to gnaw at your insides - pray. In place of becoming worn down by the constant thought you give to a matter you cannot control - pray. Seems simple - but ulcers would be obsolete if our society's stomach juices weren't churning over some of the stuff we tend to hold onto! What is lacking in the moment of worry is indeed a "sense of wholeness" - for worry is really an admittance that we are out of control at the moment and this causes us undo stress. Look up worry in the dictionary and you will see one of the very first definitions is the "torment" we bring to one's self by the disturbing thoughts we choose to entertain. Yep, we actually "torment" ourselves with our thoughts - and we actively choose to entertain those thoughts rather than others!
What "concerns" have you maintained to yourself? You know the ones I mean! Those thoughts that this or that may not work out as planned, or perhaps the suspicion of a disease process taking over your body. Those things which come to occupy our thoughts soon occupy our hearts - and what occupies our hearts gets our attention! Maybe this is why the instruction is to bring those things to Christ - the very one who is to occupy our hearts in the first place! When we allow worry, we displace Christ from the center. When we allow tormenting thoughts, we have little focus on worshiping the one who gives us all we need to face each of the challenges we are holding onto!
A sense of wholeness is what is promised - but we somehow latch onto the other part of this statement and proclaim it as the "gospel" we will believe - that everything will work out for "good" and not for "bad" in our lives. Now, before you throw stones or rotten tomatoes, let me just remind you we all live in a fallen world. All around us is "bad stuff" we have little to no control over. This past week, hundreds met their death in an instant as a plane was targeted by a missile. We honestly cannot control some of the "bad stuff" which is a result of sin being such a permeating force in our society. But...we can experience a sense of "wholeness" and "overwhelming peace" when we bring the "bad stuff" to Christ instead of allowing it to torment our thoughts.
Do something today, will you? Just a little experiment to show you how Christ can displace tormenting thoughts in your mind. First of all - you will need a jar, or large glass. Then some water, food color (any color will do), and some cooking oil. Now, fill your glass or jar about three quarters way with the water. Add your food coloring (if you don't have food color, use a little bit of something like molasses or some tea / coffee. You should have colored water now. To this, add the oil until you are just about at the top of your container. Now, let this sit for a little bit. What happens is that although your container was mostly filled with the good stuff (water), the oil mixed and broke apart into smaller pieces in your water. As it settled in, there was a clear difference between the water and the oil, but the oil still remains.
This is what worry does to us. It tries to mix with the good stuff in our lives put there by Christ, but it has a hard time doing so. But what does happen is this rising to the top of the worry. It hangs around and blocks the good stuff from being "reachable". Now, slowly add more water from the top of your container - you need to do this in the sink! Very slowly, add the water. What happens? Doesn't some of the oil begin to escape over the edges of the container? If you continue to pour slowly, what you will eventually see is that the oil begins to leave the container. Yes, you may see tell-tale signs it was there, but the majority of it is now out of the container and on its way down the drain. This is what happens when we turn our worries over to God - he slowly, but surely adds more and more of his peace into us until we become "obstruction free" again! We can tap into the good stuff at the center of our lives because the "obstructing stuff" is being displaced!
We don't need to hold onto this stuff which obstructs Christ's goodness from being at our access. Instead of keeping it, pray and allow Christ to displace it! He may not get it all out in one big rush, but as he slowly pours INTO our lives his presence and peace, we will see it begin to rise off of us and be washed away just like the oil was from our container! Just sayin!