Cannon Street Underground Station, London, England

Worry and stress are like bread and butter

Do you ever feel like your life is spinning out of control? Like there’s so much happening around you and to you (good and bad) that there’s no way you can keep track of it all? It feels like rush hour in the tube in London. You’re there with a purpose, but you can’t make any headway because there are too many people in the way, not enough room, and too much noise–so much noise. And you can’t control any of it. You can control yourself. You can control your reactions. But you can’t control other people, and you can’t control when the train gets there, and you can’t control how much space is left on the cars.

It’s so easy to worry about the stuff we can’t control. It’s so easy for me to sit here and let my mind wander about everything that could go wrong, and even though I may have the best of intentions, even though I may just be wanting to plan for those eventualities, it’s just one step further to let myself start worrying.

Cannon Street Underground Station, London, England

Cannon Street Underground Station, London, England

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:31-33.

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

This is from one of Jesus’ more famous messages, usually called The Sermon on the Mount. If you’ve ever heard of the Beatitudes, this is the same message that includes them.

It’s not a new message. Jesus talked a lot about not worrying, about trusting God, about moving forward with confidence and hope. The rest of the Bible is full of examples and stories about how worrying isn’t useful.

Worry is a waste of time. Going back to the tube illustration, you can stand in the station and worry about whether or not you’ll be able to get a spot on the train, but you only have two options–either there’s a space for you or there isn’t. If there’s a space, you’ll get on. If there’s not, you just have to wait till the next train. Maybe you won’t get to your destination when you thought you would. But worrying about it won’t accomplish anything–other than to wear you out.

Haven’t you noticed? Worry is exhausting. It’s an emotional roller coaster. We wear ourselves out worrying about things we can’t control anyway and by the time we reach our destination, we’re too tired to accomplish anything meaningful. What good does that do? What is the point? We have a culture that thrives on anxiety. Worry and stress are two of the mainstays of the American emotional diet, and there’s a concept out there (especially in the corporate world) that if you aren’t worried or stressed out about something, you’re not doing something right.

And that’s ridiculous.

I don’t want to worry anymore. I don’t want to be worn out and stressed out and anxious about things I can’t control anyway. I don’t want to waste my precious, limited time worrying about whether people like me or like what I have to say, although as a performance-driven people pleaser those two things are the bread and butter of my emotional diet.

I work and worry and stress myself out to accomplish the things I think I need to accomplish, and most of my stress and anxiety comes from those self-inflicted deadlines. But are those the things I need? I think I need them. But God is the one who knows for sure.

In the verses previous to this passage, Jesus is talking about the birds and about how they don’t worry about what they wear or what they eat and God provides for them. And if God cares for the birds, doesn’t He care for us more? God will take care of us. And the thing is I know that. I’ve seen it. He’s provided for me in so many ways that I can’t keep track, and it’s complete and utter foolishness to forget it or to doubt Him simply because I don’t know what’s around the corner.

All I need to do is seek Him. I need to live my life the way the Bible says. And He will take care of the rest. I need to trust my dreams and wants and goals to Him. I mean, He gave those things to me anyway, and they’re better off in His hands because He can truly make them happen, whereas I will just flail around like a turtle stuck on its back and wear myself out getting nowhere.

God knows what I need, and He’s a good God. He won’t withhold something out of spite. He won’t refuse me just because He can. He doesn’t abuse power like that. If I think I need something and He hasn’t given it to me, maybe I don’t need it at all. Or maybe I need something else first. That’s between me and Him–and Him and you. But either way, worrying gets you nowhere. And it accomplishes nothing.

So don’t waste time with it. It’s hard. Trust me, I know how hard it is to choose not to worry when it’s so much easier to hold on. But once you learn how to let go, it’s addicting. And it’s such a relief.

Do what God wants. Live for Him. Let the rest go. You’ll enjoy life more, and by the grace of God, you’ll accomplish great things because God will intervene and do more through you than you ever could have on your own, even if you prepared for it.

Blooming iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Tomorrow will come whether you worry about it or not

Does our worrying matter to God? I think it does. When we worry we pretty much tell God that He doesn’t know what He’s doing, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be guilty of that.

I wouldn’t call myself a worrier. I’m usually too busy to spend any time worrying about things, but sometimes anxieties creep up on me silently and spring a trap when I’m not paying attention. And before I know what I’m doing, I’m stressing out about things I can’t control.

We all know that worrying is a choice, but sometimes I think we make that choice without thinking about it. And I don’t know why worrying makes us feel like we have some semblance of control over life, because worrying stems from the fact that we have no control.

Blooming iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Blooming iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:34.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

It’s easy to worry about tomorrow. It’s easy to worry about the things we don’t understand. It’s easy to worry about the parts of life that we don’t get to change. But worrying doesn’t accomplish anything. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that. Worry only accomplishes turning you into someone you’re not.

It’s like anger. Just like anger turns you into a different person, so does worry. And both worry and anger will ruin relationships and damage opportunities.

So how do you live without worry? How do you make that choice to not stress about tomorrow when tomorrow is all you can think about? Is there a magic word? Is there a key? Is there a book to read or a program to follow?

What’s nice about this verse is that it comes on the heels of a larger passage dedicated to telling people why they shouldn’t worry.

Matthew 6:25-33

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Here’s the thing about worry. For me, worry comes from the fact that I like to be in control of my life. I like to make decisions. I like to be independent and self-sufficient. But my life is too much for me to handle alone. There are some things I can’t accomplish on my own. There are parts of my life where I need help, and it’s those parts of my life where I need help that I worry about because I can’t do it myself. I have to rely on someone else to help me.

And I’m not good at relying on people to help me. I worry. I worry that I haven’t explained a situation well enough. I worry that I haven’t provided the necessary instruction or tools. I worry that I left something out. I worry that the whole thing is going to go down the drain and it will have been my fault because I didn’t plan well enough.

But here’s the deal: What’s going to happen will happen whether I worry about it or not.

Surprising? No, probably not, but true. Just because we sit around and worry about an upcoming event doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Conversely, just because we sit around and worry about something that might happen doesn’t mean it will happen. That’s tomorrow. And worrying about it doesn’t do you or the people around you any good.

In those instances where you have to rely on God for things you can’t control, you just have to trust Him. Like the verses say above, He already knows what we need. And He’ll give us what we need to make it through. Either way, worrying about just makes you unpleasant.

So if you’re worrying about something today, stop. I mean, don’t ignore the problem. Recognize it. Prepare for it as best you can. But then let it go because worrying about it will only hurt you. God has it under control and He’s going to work everything out. It may not work out today. It may not work out tomorrow. It may not work out in a month or a year. But you can believe that it will work out because that’s the way God is. Whatever is happening in our lives has a purpose, and He will use it for our good and His glory.

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Borrowing trouble

English is kind of fun. Since I started working with people who aren’t American and for whom English is a second language, we’ve had a lot of really fascinating conversations about English idiom. Upsetting the apple cart. Pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. Things like that. Well, today’s verses made me think of the idiom, borrowing trouble. According to Dictionary.com, to borrow trouble means to “go out of one’s way to do something that may be harmful.”

The example Dictionary.com gave was a statement: “Just sign the will. Telling her about it ahead of time is just borrowing trouble.”

It means to expend emotional or physical resources to accomplish something that may be unnecessary in the long run, something that may turn out to be even more difficult to handle than the current situation.

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach – Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Matthew 6:33-34.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Tomorrow is that strange, foreign land that we can’t see until we get there. Shakespeare called the future “the undiscovered country” in Hamlet (Act III, Scene 1). And like everything we can’t understand until we experience it, it’s easier to worry about it than to ignore it. But worrying doesn’t really accomplish anything. Have you noticed that?

What is it about worrying that makes us feel like we are more in control than not? I don’t know what it is. If I did, I would find out and fix it. Because worrying has turned more of my hair silver than anything else (and, yes, I do have gray hair). But no matter how much worrying I do, I still can’t solve a problem before it happens. I can sit and speculate about what might happen until I’m blue in the face, but I can’t do anything about it until what’s going to happen actually happens.

What good does worrying about it do?

There is a difference between worrying and planning. You do want to plan. You do want to be prepared for the worst case scenario. But that’s where it needs to stop.

Tomorrow is the future. Tomorrow is Shakespeare’s undiscovered country. And worrying about what happens tomorrow will rob us of what is going on in our lives today.

The whole chapter of Matthew 6 is part of a lengthy but revolutionary sermon that Jesus preached called The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It was unlike anything people had ever heard before because previous teachers couldn’t speak with real authority. The teachers of religious law that the people had always listened to previously couldn’t speak like Jesus could. And a good deal of Matthew 6 talks about worrying.

We’re all good at worrying. We worry about food. We worry about clothes. We worry about finances. And it’s amazing to me that Jesus spoke on this in the First Century because they’re still issues we worry about today. Apparently it’s something people are just prone to worrying about.

But Jesus says not to worry (Matthew 6:25-32):

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.

Instead of worrying about tomorrow — instead of borrowing trouble — we need to seek God first today. Don’t regret yesterday; don’t worry about tomorrow; run after God today. God knows what you need, and He’ll take care of it.

Waves on Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Worry

I worry all the time. I hate to admit it, but I do. I just don’t talk about it because I don’t want people to think I’m worrying, even if I am. I’ve heard it said that worry is a mild form of atheism, and that’s probably true. But my worry doesn’t stem from a lack of faith that God will do what He has promised to do. I have no trouble believing that. My worry just comes around because I’m afraid I’m not going to live up to the potential that God has given me.

Waves on Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Waves on Jamaica Beach – Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:34.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Jesus had us pegged. Honestly. And in some way, I guess it’s comforting to know that people worried in His day too. And actually before because I’m pretty sure that this same verse originated in the Old Testament.

Worry is something everyone faces, and it’s up to us to choose whether or not to give in to it.

What amazes me the most is that my brain doesn’t hesitate to jump directly to the worst case scenario about every situation in my life. I rarely worry about the situations I can control; I really only focus on the events that I can’t control. I really only focus on the uncertainties in my life. And as a result, I put myself in knots.

It’s like standing on a beach watching the tide come in. You can see the waves as they form some distance off, and you know they may beautiful sounds. But to make those beautiful sounds you know they have to crash on the beach first. But there’s nothing you can do to speed them up or slow them down. You just have to watch and wait until they hit and hope that you’ve rolled your pants up high enough.

It’s in that moment where you can choose to worry about it or choose to not worry.

There’s a difference between recognizing something that can go wrong and focusing on the fact that something can go wrong. Identify the negatives, realize what could happen, but move on. Don’t dwell on it. Because if you dwell on it, you’ll start worrying. And most of the time what you’re worrying about is something you can’t change anyway.

This is a lesson I’m relearning every day. Worry doesn’t really accomplish anything. So it’s best not to give in to it, especially if you’re worrying about tomorrow.

Chair on the beach - Galveston, TX

Today is a gift

A friend of mine once told me that life is like a war and every day is a battle that we win or lose. Every day is a new opportunity to either do something for God or to focus on ourselves, and it’s up to us to choose.

Chair on the beach - Galveston, TX

Chair on the beach – Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Psalm 118:24.This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

It’s easy for me to get into a rut thinking that life just happens. I’m a creature of habit, so for me to keep up with all the craziness of my life, I have to develop habits in repeatable patterns. Otherwise I forget things. But as a result of making habits into a life, I get to thinking that every day just happens. And that’s not the case.

Every day is a gift.

It’s one more chance to do something awesome for God. It’s one more chance for God to do something amazing through us. And no matter what happened yesterday and no matter what you have planned for tomorrow, today is the day God wants you to live right now.

We can choose to make today a new day, or we can choose to make today just like any other day. Not that living a day like any other day is bad, but if we can remember that every day is a gift, maybe it will change our perspective a little. Because we can worship God with our habits, just like we can worship Him in spontaneity.

So be thankful for the day you have today.

For me? I have 12 solid hours of driving to look forward to as I say goodbye to the beach again, but I can either look at it like 12 solid hours of driving … or as 12 solid hours I get to spend with my brother, who I never get to see often enough anymore.

We only have 24 hours in a day, but you’d be surprised what you can finish in that time. Just remember that you didn’t have to wake up this morning. So if you did, there must be something God wants you to do.

Mulberries - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Remember what God has done

We are forgetful people, and we live in a forgetful culture. I don’t think we forget on purpose. There are many times I truly believe we just get so busy and our brains get so full that forgetfulness just comes naturally. But it sure isn’t purposeful. I forget things all the time, but mainly that’s because I’m running around like a crazy person.

Example: I forgot to post yesterday. Did I do it on purpose? Not at all. My flight got into Wichita about 12:30 in the morning Wednesday, I slept for a few hours, and I work up and went to work. Posting a devo completely slipped my mind until later in the afternoon.

Mulberries - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Mulberries – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 12:24.

But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you.

God has provided so many things for me. Sometimes it’s tempting to believe that we have gotten all that we have through our own intellect or our own skills, but that’s just pride talking. Any good thing in my life has come from God, and I have a lot of good things.

But I take everything for granted, I think. My friends. My family. My job. My house. Because on the bad days, I feel like I have nothing, and I feel like God isn’t working at all, and I start to wonder if He really keeps His promises.

I don’t know why He puts up with me.

He’s so much more patient than I am. If I had been half as good to someone else as He has been to me and they treated me like I treat Him, I would have given up years ago. But not God. His love baffles me.

Today’s verse actually comes out of a similar situation. The people of Israel, who God had chosen and blessed and taken care of and rescued and all that jazz over and over and over again for generations, had decided that they wanted a king other nations could see instead of an All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Always-There God they couldn’t. Samuel, their High Priest who served as God’s mouthpiece, told them they were making a mistake, but they were insistent.

So God gave them what they wanted. A king who looked good but didn’t have much going on inside, but that’s a different story. What is interesting to me is how God reacted in the first place.

If you have a chance, read 1 Samuel 12. Samuel stands up in front of the people of Israel and reminds them of everything God has done for them. And he warns them that if they forget God and how He cared for them that they would have to endure some suffering until they remember who God is.

Throughout Scripture, God has always demonstrated His love and faithfulness for the people of Israel. The Old Testament is brimming with stories of how God rescued them from danger and how they turned around and forgot him a short time later. And as a child, I used to think that they were the stupidest people on the planet. But am I much different?

God has opened doors for me that I could never have opened on my own. He has provided a comfortable place for me to live that I could never have provided for myself. He has given me a wonderful family, incredible friends, etc. etc. etc. So many good things. And after He has saved me and rescued me and given me more blessings than I can handle, I turn around and forget and start worrying about tomorrow. 

I’m just as bad as the children of Israel. And God is just as faithful to me as He was to them.

Forgetting is dangerous. Because if we forget where our blessings come from, we’ll start thinking we did it ourselves. And then when trouble comes again, we’ll rely on ourselves. And there’s no power there.

Samuel warned the people of Israel not to forget God. And maybe that generation listened, but the generation afterward didn’t get the memo. And even the king himself wasn’t paying much attention. And God was forced to remind them.

It works the same way in our lives. So don’t forget. Or God will have to remind us who He is.