“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.” Phil 4:6 The Message
I don’t know about you, but when I come upon this verse I usually think “YEAH!! Of course!”
Then I come upon a crisis
“How do I fix this?”
“How will I manage this AND that other?”
“And why is this my problem anyway???”
“Why can’t they ever…. ?”
“Must they always…?”
“And on my LAST nerve, too!”
But one subtle blessing of crisis is it presents those … refreshing … occasions of ‘I have no choice, I’ve tried everything else.’
On my best days (too frequently arriving days or weeks into my response to the crisis) this causes me to slow down and evaluate things more carefully.
And when I slow down, first, I remember. Then, I am reminded.
I remember: If God IS, and is all he says he is, he probably knows what he’s talking about. If he’s the designer, he knows how I function, and he knows how this situation functions, best. Being TRUTH, he’s also unlikely to give me meaningless platitudes to make me feel better, you know?
And I remember: all the research showing that worry is a toxic chemical spill that saps our health, our strength, and even our capacity for clear, creative, sensible thought. All the research showing that prayer, mindfulness, meditation – the things encompassed in this verse – provide healing, focus … that they reduce stress, increase creativity, create space for sound judgement to enter in.
Apparently God DOES know what he’s talking about!
And I’m reminded: Of the times when I HAVE done this right. Of how much better those occasions have gone. Of how often I’ve received direction and even blessing in response to bringing a crisis to God instead of to Panic. Of the simple fact that I seldom DO think at my absolute best when I’m freaking out!
And of peace.
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray…
This passage doesn’t say not to have things to worry about, not to have troubles.
It also isn’t the kind-but-meaningless admonition I am prone to reduce it to. I’ve come to suspect it’s a simple statement of correct function: DON’T do that thing; DO this thing.
And since worry and prayer require the exact same investment of energy, and time, how bad an idea can it be to try the one that is Manufacturer recommended, versus the one I know, from long experience, won’t help?
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns…
I’ve got the ‘petitions’ piece pretty well nailed. Not as a first resort, perhaps, but I eventually get around to ‘Please, please, please! Fix this! Stop this! Change this! PLEASE?!?!?’
God is well versed in my concerns.
It took me quite some time, though, to SEE that other bit: praises.
Oh. Yeah. God is still worthy of praise even when I don’t like my ‘now’.
And God inhabits the praise of his people. Now, I don’t fully understand that choice, but it’s his, so wouldn’t it make sense to obey the command that brings him nearest my trial?
Over and over again in scripture, God’s power is released through praise. Not my business why, but it makes some sense to be praising him when I most need some power.
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down…
And of course, this is the part I don’t REALLY believe, isn’t it?
If I REALLY expected a sense of wholeness, comprehension of everything coming together for good … if I really expected ANYTHING to come and settle me down, the clear path God lays out here would be my first resort wouldn’t it? Every time!
But I forget. I try 30 things that don’t work before giving in to The Manufacturer’s recommended maintenance. Why?
Why don’t I believe that he’s got this covered? Why do I think he can’t swing THIS ONE for good? It’s too big, to scary, too crushing, too awful?
For God ?!?
Clearly I haven’t mastered this one. I have NO IDEA why.
What I can say is when I have followed this guidance, it’s proved true. And having just begun following it again, I’m finding it proved true again.
I suspect I shall always find it so.
It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life…
And isn’t this the point? What I’m focusing all my attention on is going to determine the direction I travel. A mountain biker in my church gives this instruction: Don’t look where you don’t want to go.
It’s no different in traveling through crisis. I know FOR SURE where I don’t want to be! I DO NOT want to be right here. But if that is all I am looking at where am I going to go? That is what worry yields.
But if better understanding God, and following his simple, reasonable instructions: “Pray. Praise. TRUST.” and plain and simply CHRIST, are where I’m looking, I end up in a very different place.
It’s worth testing, anyway! 🙂