Tormenting thoughts

6-7Don'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.  (Phil. 4:6-7)

Paul experienced some unique trials in his time in service to the Lord.  He was jailed, brought before magistrates to give an account for his actions, engaged with others in ministry that struggled with each other, and he faced physical ailment in his body...just to name a few.  In the concluding chapter of Philippians, Paul directs his readers (and that includes us) to live a life that is free of fretting and worrying.  Instead of worrying - we are to pray.  Okay, you are already saying, "Easier said than done."  I am right there with you!  I have often struggled with the worrying long before I remember to turn it over to the Lord for his answer!

Paul directs us to not fret.  Fretting is a corrosive process - it affects us by gnawing away at the peace and faith we have.  The corroding effect of fretting on life's problems eventually eats a hole through our faith, exposing us to doubt, frustration, fear, etc.  Fretting behavior is quite easy to recognize - it is agitated.  I know when I am in a fretting state when I look at the inability to "settle down" and focus as I should.  

He also directs us not to worry.  Why does he use both terms here?  Don't they have a similar meaning?  Well, they are close, but worry carries with it the idea of causing yourself torment!  In other words, you are doing yourself in by the behavior you are engaging in!  Every move you make is like you are dragging yourself along, no energy or passion in the movement.  Your steps are tentative and guarded.  

Paul describes the "antidote" to corrosive thoughts/actions and self-tormenting activities as prayer.  Not just the "Dear God, please intervene..." kind of prayers, but a pouring out of your heart before God with the nitty-gritty stuff that has you "wigged out" in the first place.  It is an intense opening up of yourself to God in honest exposure of the things that acting as a corrosive influence in your thought life.  In so doing, Paul describes an eventual "washing away" of the corrosiveness and a refreshing peace settling down in place of that corrosive thought pattern or activity we had previously been involved in.

Christ displacing worry at the center of our lives - amazing thought!  Don't lose sight of what Paul is saying here.  He says when worry or fretting get a foothold, Christ is displaced from the center of our lives - he becomes a second thought, not our first.  When we are honest about our struggles, we are asking Christ to come back to "center" in our lives - refocusing us on the one who IS peace.  

So, the next time you find yourself a little agitated on the inside or in a place of self-torment, turn your focus toward "center" again.  As long as we keep Christ there, the corrosiveness of whatever life is dishing out will be lessened and the abundance of his grace will deliver us from the self-torment of our own fickle thoughts.  Gotta love it!


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