God has allowed me many opportunities to practice not worrying. Clearly it’s something I needed (still need?) to work on.
Does the word “opportunity” sound strange to you? It did at first to me too, but difficulties and undesirable situations are exactly that. As I tell my children, “This is an opportunity for you to practice _____” (fill in the blank — patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, trust, contentment).
We were given a special-needs daughter to raise for eight years and nine months. In that time, I wasted physical, mental, and emotional energy worrying about her. How would we handle this, or that? What if the worst happened? What if she died?
Then, Someone turned up the heat. We learned at our youngest’s 20-week ultrasound that he had a complex set of congenital defects, just as complex as his oldest sister’s. We knew what we had already been through with her: four separate open-heart surgeries, long stays in the hospital and in intensive care, struggles to get sufficient calories into her body for her to grow, seizures, dozens of medications, brain injury, cerebral palsy, wheelchairs, occupational/physical/speech therapies.
We walked out of that appointment silent, stunned, disbelieving, minds racing. The unthinkable. It was happening again. And every day for 20 weeks, we beat back despairing fearful thoughts for our baby and our family.
That summer, I wrote a lot about my battle with worry during my pregnancy with our youngest. I went back to those journal entries today, and found this one, written just three months before Little Boy was born.
I have found that clinging to God’s promises in Philippians 4:4-13 and pleading for His help to follow Paul’s exhortation to keep my thoughts focused on God’s truth has been my best defense against my imagination.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
I have a tendency to imagine all the possibilities for the future. But possibilities are by definition not true. So, according to Philippians 4:8, we ought not dwell on them.
When my mind wanders down that road, I have to tell myself (sometimes out loud… if no-one is around…) “Joy! ‘Whatsoever things are true!’ You do not know that this thing you’re thinking about right now is true. What DO you know to be true? That God is in control and He provides grace for each moment IN each moment.”
God promises all the grace we need — as we need it. He does not promise grace for our imaginations.
Today that little baby is three years old. And today it is almost two years after walking through my worst fear — the loss of our daughter. I have learned this:
Worry is useless and hopeless.
It demonstrates and encourages failure to trust in God.
For I can look back and see how God did carry us. He kept his promises. He flooded us with peace and strength beyond our own ability to muster in the moments after we found Elli unresponsive in her bed, and in the days of funeral preparation, and in the days after we laid her to rest in the cemetery just a mile from our house.
None of the worrying I had done before she died did anything good or helpful
to prepare me for that moment.
Instead, it robbed me of joy — the joy of simply being with her and resting in Him.
But the practice trusting? All of the hours I actually did work to turn my thoughts towards God and his promises? That work was spiritual weight-lifting, strengthening and preparing my heart to face the day when He said, “Your work as Elli’s mom is finished,” and to trust Him with that too.
The moments when I chose to obey, to trust Him with the future,
those moments He enabled me to soak up every drop of joy just being with her.
So let me ask you: Do you truly believe that God works all things for good for those who love Him?
Then why are you worrying? Take action. Do not merely tell yourself to stop worrying. Tell yourself to think on what is true — God will give you the strength you need when you need it.
Linked to the Faith Barista’s Faith Jam. Click here to read other contributions on the topic “Letting Go of Worry.”