Monday, March 4, 2013

That's Why My Friends Call Me Whiskers

{If you've never seen the "Space the Infinite Frontier" SNL Harry Caray skit, you can either just ignore the title of this post, or enjoy some incredibly stupid humor by watching it here.}

3 weeks ago today, I was sitting & talking with my pastor. I was sharing with him about some recent events that were unfolding in my life, and listening to his counsel regarding the situation. Throughout the day today, one of the things he said kept coming back up in my mind - it was one of the most truthful statements he made to me that night. Here is my attempted paraphrase at what he said:

"I haven't known you for very long, but I've noticed that you're the type of person who worries yourself sick with hypotheticals and "what if's." You try to think through every possible scenario that might happen and consume yourself with worrying about it. You can't do that to yourself, it does absolutely no good. Read Matthew 6 - if you need to read through Matthew 6 every single day, then do it. But you can't kill yourself with the "what if's" and the hypotheticals."

If I remember right, my response was just a really big smile while my head kept nodding up & down. "Yep." I've only been going to my current church since mid-October, and it's not like I've been meeting 1 on 1 with my pastor on a regular basis...but he nailed it. Either he is one of the most observant people I've ever known, or he is just really in-tune with the Holy Spirit while he's counseling someone (I think it's both). But all of that to say, what he said that night is finally drilling its way through my thick, worrisome skull - and I'm thinking he was serious after all about reading through the passage in Matthew 6 every day. Because I need it. I am a worrier. I absolutely hate the "unknowns." If I don't know exactly what to expect before a new & different situation, I work myself up over it. I really like to know the "gameplan" and the "how." I'm not good at all with disorganization & chaos; with "winging it." I've never been good at "going along for the ride" ... I like to know where I'm going, and how I'm getting there.

But that's where I've found myself the last couple weeks. Right smack dab in the middle of a portion of life defined almost entirely by "unknowns." And this is what's amazing to me - these unknowns are a direct result of the incredible answers to prayer my very last blog post was all about - but how quickly my mind can turn 180 degrees! One moment I'm on top of a mountain; praising God for working in ways I could have never imagined...only to find myself days later, worrying about & consuming my thoughts with concerns of all the "unknowns" I'm facing. I really believe this is one of Satan's "go-to" approaches. He hates it when we experience amazing spiritual victories - when we have incredible "God-moments" that we are ecstatic about sharing with others. So he immediately starts trying to place small thoughts of doubt in our minds to completely shift our focus. One minute we are excited about the "big picture" of what God has done & is doing...and the next minute, Satan is whispering questions in our ears about all the small, tiny details that still need to be worked out. "That's great, but what about this; what about that; what about (fill in the blank)."

But just like every other time I catch myself in whatever my current struggle is...the Spirit of God brings me to a passage of Scripture, and 9 times out of 10 it's one that I would claim to be "familiar" with. Today it was Philippians 4...again. Verses 6 & 7 say this:

"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."

Because of my worrying, these are verses that God has had to bring me back to innumerable times, but I'm so thankful that He does. Over the past year, though, there are 2 things about these verses that hit me like never before. I finally realized exactly what God does and doesn't promise when we pray during our anxiety. It should be obvious because you won't find it anywhere in these 2 verses...but God doesn't promise to answer our prayers during our "anxiety" ... especially not the way we might want Him to. Sometimes He just wants us to learn to wait on Him; to keep praying; to learn to trust Him. He doesn't tell us to bring our worries & requests to Him just so that he can take a magic eraser to our problems. But what God does promise to give us is peace. Not just any peace, though...His peace.

This is what prayer is all about - it's all about me seeking God's heart. It's all about me surrendering my desires & plans to whatever His desires & plans are for me. It's about throwing my worries, concerns, anxieties, and fears at His feet, and admitting that I don't have the faith it takes to fully trust Him with all the "unknowns" in my life - but I want to. And instead of just instantly removing all of the hard things & problems from my life, God instead chooses to calm our souls with His inexplicable peace that cannot be described in any human language. Think about it - if I'm worrying about x, y, and z ... and x, y, and z are still very present after I'm done praying...why would I have peace about that?! How would you be able to explain that to someone? Well, you can't...and that's why the verse says the peace of God "surpasses all understanding." A peace that maybe even comes from Him increasing our faith; a gift of giving us the ability to trust Him more. God never promises to calm the storm - but He always promises to calm our hearts in the midst of the storm if we keep our focus on Him. And that is what will "guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Today I was brutally reminded of just how much of a worrier I am. But as Jesus says in Matthew 6, I can't add a single hour to my day, or a single inch to my height by worrying. So instead of worrying; instead of getting caught up in the hypotheticals & the "what if's" of life ... I'm reminded that instead, I need to bring my anxieties to the throne of grace & ask for the Father of mercies to guard my heart & mind from my worries with His incomprehensible peace.

Isaiah 26:3-4 - "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock."