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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Not sweating the small stuff, but not stumbling over it either!

Troubles - those things which disturb our mental "calm" and kind of impact our "contentment" for even a short while.  Sometimes we call these things the stuff we "worry about" or the things which "give us stress" in life.  They come no matter how well we live our life!  These "annoyances" are really present no matter where we go, who we associate with, or what job we manage to land. We cannot escape them because they are inherent to us living and breathing on this earth.  So, we had better learn how it is we are to respond to them and what to do when they are about to knock us onto our rear end.  To this end, we are presented with several responses - to pray, sing, ask for prayer from others, and confession. We probably "get" why we are supposed to pray and even ask for prayer from others, but the singing and confession part may just not be as easy for us to grasp.  There is something powerful which happens in our lives when we actually embrace and act upon the instructions we are given in scripture - so we don't want to overlook either of these instructions an unimportant!

Are you having troubles? You should pray. Are you happy? You should sing. Are you sick? Ask the elders of the church to come and rub oil on you in the name of the Lord and pray for you.  If such a prayer is offered in faith, it will heal anyone who is sick. The Lord will heal them. And if they have sinned, he will forgive them.  So always tell each other the wrong things you have done. Then pray for each other. Do this so that God can heal you. Anyone who lives the way God wants can pray, and great things will happen.  (James 5:13-16 CEB)

Troubles involve all those little things which mount into the bigger things because they tend to go unnoticed until they pile up a little.  Maybe this is why we are given the instruction to pray about them.  Prayer opens our minds to the possibility of a source of strength outside of ourselves - something we don't often realize we are trying to operate without until we see the troubles mounting into more than a molehill!  I think we often let troubles mount in life because they are simply "little annoyances" we just don't pay attention to quite as quickly as the bigger things.  Think about the last time you heard that little squeak in your car or the appliance running somewhere in the house.  For a while you just ignore the squeak - it annoys you, but you just don't give it much attention.  When you need the car to get you to work on time for an important meeting, or the washer to clean your clothes which have piled up in massive numbers, what happens?  They break down and strand you without options! At that moment, your small annoyances just hit epic proportions!

Prayer sorts out the important from the mundane and it clarifies the attention we need to direct toward both.  It helps us "rightly order" our priorities and in turn it gives us the wisdom and resources to handle them before they mount into bigger troubles!  It also has the ability to get us on course again when we have been ignoring things which probably shouldn't have been ignored.  This is probably why we are instructed to go to each other and confess our sins - those things we have been ignoring in our lives and allowing to mount up until there was some form of compromise.  As we recognize the relationship between troubles (things which we should be paying attention to but probably aren't) and those things which cause us to stumble over them (that mounting pile of ignored troubles), we can see there comes a point when what we ignore becomes the thing which we need the help and support of another to actually "get over" or "get through".  

When "good" happens in our lives, it is not unlike us to sing the praises of the one who "did the good" or give props to the event which actually helped the "good" come about.  We actually find it kind of "rewarding" to just "retell" the story of how the good happened.  This is what praise and song to God actually does - it recounts the good and how we saw it come into our lives.  We focus on that awesome moment or event which actually helped us through the troubles - or just kept us from ever experiencing them in the first place!  On the other hand, when we have been moving at break-neck speed and find ourselves beginning the feel a little "below our normal potential" with sickness looming at our door, we don't want to sing, do we?  We probably want to moan, groan, and just plain not deal with life anymore!  We'd like our comforter, a hot cup of tea, some aspirin, and a whole lot of TLC from someone.  Maybe we don't think of calling for someone to anoint us with oil as bringing "health" back to our bodies again, but there is something in the action of asking for another's help which I don't think our writer wants to overlook here.

When we call for help, what are we doing?  We are admitting we are not able to do things ourselves.  When we pray, we are learning to develop the right perspective on what comes our way in life - getting a continual renewal of mind and focus which helps us to deal with stuff before it mounts into those things which will be our stumbling blocks.  When we recognize escape or deliverance has come our way, we celebrate because we know the opposite side of that coin was not going to have been pleasing at all.  When we are struggling to overcome and somehow come through without scratch or stumbling because another has helped us walk through where we could not have traversed alone, we feel supported and loved.  As we learn the advantages of quickly leaning into prayer when troubles come - so we get God's perspective on the little stuff - we learn to trust him more.  We probably all trust him with the big stuff, but when we can actually begin to bring the little stuff to him - we are sure to learn the joy of having a deeper trust in his care over our lives.  Just sayin!