Archive for the ‘Worry’ Category

LIVING IN THE STORM

Posted: May 12, 2012 in Emotions, Life!, Work, Worry
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I haven’t written a blog post in some time so I decided to pick up the pen (actually laptop) again. The truth is, I have not had a clear enough head to put any thoughts together in an organized fashion, and that is a good description of my whole life right now.

In September of last year, I left the job I had and loved for 14 years.  I am fully convinced I was following God in this and I am still convinced today. What I seemed to forget is that following God will sometimes put you right in the middle of a storm!  Look at this passage from Matthew 14: Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray… Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.  Do you get the picture here?  The disciples were doing exactly what Jesus had instructed them to do and it put them right in the middle of the storm.

I thought about just listing the frustrating events that have been my life over the past 7½ months since I moved back to Mississippi but every time I would start to write them, I would hear a little kid voice in the back of my head saying, “I think I hear the whambulance.”  Just so you know, for some time now I have been working on a manuscript for a new book titled: AM I CRAZY OR WHAT?  I suppose after the disclosure that I hear kid voices in my head one might conclude that I am giving away the ending of the book. But I digress.

While sitting alone in my blue Lazyboy, I got the idea to write down a list of the areas of my life that have been wounded, some dramatically, since last September. Then I wrote down another list of the fears I have in each one of those areas, fears of what might go wrong, fears of more pain. And then, finally, I wrote down a third list of what I really hope for in those areas in the future.

And it hit me: my list of fears on the one hand and my list of hopes on the other represent two different visions for my future coming out of what has been the most painful and challenging rip in that imaginary protective membrane surrounding my life that I have lived in for the past 14 years. There are two very different destinations for which I can set my internal compass at this point. I mean, I can’t stay where I am. That’s one of the realities of pain. It always drives us somewhere. The question for me is … where will I wind up?

Actually, I think that’s the question that faces every one of us when we suffer in this life. What are we going to do with the pain of divorce or injustice or physical infirmity; the death of a dream, a betrayal, the death of a loved one or any other loss. How are we going to grieve? How are we going to react to loss? (And the word “grief” is simply a way of describing our reaction to a loss).

Beginning with my next post, I am going to look at the topic of grief.  Please feel free to send me an email if you have a story of grief recovery or if you have a question about the grief process.

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Some counselors talk about “how to cope with stress.” I’ll be honest with you: I’m not interested in “coping” with stress. I had a cold a couple of weeks ago.  I didn’t want my doctor to give me a three point plan to cope with it.  I want to eliminate worry and stress. I don’t want to get used to it, I want to get rid of it. In Philippians 4, Paul shows us how we can do just that. He begins by saying…
(v. 6) Do not worry about anything.

Now, this is easier said than done. Everyone knows that worry isn’t good, yet everyone does it from time to time. The only thing more futile than worry is telling someone not to worry. But Paul does much more than just say “Don’t worry.” He tells us exactly how to stop worrying. Do you have worries? Here’s how you can get rid of them.

1. Make everything a matter of prayer

(v. 6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

2. Point your thoughts in the right direction

Our thoughts control us. In the Bible, King Solomon said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)

What do you think about all day? When you wake up in the morning, what thoughts go through your mind? How you think during the first few minutes of the day can set the pace for the entire day.

You could begin each day by saying, “This is the day that Lord has made! I’m above ground and my heart is still beating, so it’s a great day! I’ve got many things to look forward to. Today, I’m going to make progress on my problems. Today, God will be with me every step of the way. Today, God will cause all things to work together for good. Today, God will give me the opportunity to serve him in some capacity. Today, I will encourage my family. Today, I will show God’s love to everyone I meet.”

Do you see how empowering this can be? If you point your thoughts in the right direction at the beginning of each day, your worries will not have room to squeeze in. This is why Paul says…

(v. 8) Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

These 8 things serve as filters that help us reject certain thoughts and prevent us from putting garbage into our minds. You don’t have to throw your TV and radio in the trash, but you do need to be selective in what you put into your mind.  Let verse 8 be your remote control controller.

Paul teaches that a crucial step in eliminating worry or anxiety is to think the way you ought to think—point your thoughts in the right direction. Thirdly…

3. Take action against your worries

Many people resign themselves to their worries and do nothing. They tell themselves there is nothing they can do, and they wait for the worst to happen. As a result, their worries get bigger and bigger, and things get worse and worse. Doing nothing is fertilizer for anxiety—it causes your worry to spread out of control. Taking action is weed-killer. It removes worries once and for all. Paul said,

(v. 9) Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Paul goes out on a limb with this statement. He was speaking to a church that knew him well. He had lived with them and served with them. If he said, “Do not worry” but was himself always stressed out and full of anxiety, they wouldn’t have bought what he was saying. However, Paul’s life did match his message, and he could say with confidence, “Follow my example. Do what I do, and you’ll have God’s peace in your life.”

There is a principle here for us to learn. Do you know someone who has a handle on worry? Follow their example. Do you know someone who can go through stressful situations without coming unglued? Then handle your problems the way they handle their problems.

What I see in the lives of people who do not worry is a commitment to take responsible action. Doers aren’t worriers, and worriers aren’t doers. If you take action in the direction of whatever it is you that worries you, your worries will disappear. Paul said, in effect, “You’ve heard me say it, you’ve seen me do it, now—put it into practice yourself—take action.”

What kind of action should you take? Well, what are you worried about? Is it your marriage? Then do something that will strengthen the bond or open the lines of communication. Are you worried about losing your job? Make an effort to protect yourself and get your resume ready. Are you worried about your health? Take steps to become more healthy. It’s as simple as this: Taking action destroys worry.

It comes down to this. The cure for worry and anxiety is to pray like you ought to pray, think like you ought to think, and act like you ought to act. Your worries will disappear, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind.

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At the church where I am a member, Pastor Jim and I are doing a study on “stress.” Last night he was unable to attend due to having surgery during the morning.  He asked me to do the study and what I am sharing here is what I shared with the Wednesday evening church family.

The Bible is such a practical book.  I want to guide us as we see what it has to say on the topic of how to eliminate stress.  In the book of Philippians chapter four the writer (Apostle Paul) begins by saying… (v. 6) Do not worry about anything.

Do you have worries? Here’s how you can get rid of them. First of all…

1. Make everything a matter of prayer

(v. 6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

When I read the writings of Paul I quickly come to the conclusion that I do not pray enough. Again and again Paul commands us to pray about everything.

We have a tendency to want to handle the little things ourselves and only “bother” God with the big stuff. There are two problems with this line of thinking. First, it’s all small stuff from God’s perspective. Secondly, if we don’t let God help us through the day-to-day problems, how can we trust him to help us tackle the toughies? When you pray about everything, you will begin to see God’s power at work in your life—in little problems and in major crises. The Bible says…

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

In fact, Paul takes it a step further. He said, “Present your requests to God.” That means, in any problem you have, or any situation you encounter, you have permission—in fact, you have a direct order—to make a request to God, telling him exactly what you want to happen.

That’s quite a privilege, isn’t it? What if you request something that isn’t in line with God’s will? Well, don’t worry about that. God will take care of it. He will not give you something that he knows isn’t best for you. Besides, the more you pray about something the more you will learn to discern the difference (when there is one) between God’s will and your desires.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for help. Twenty times in the New Testament we are commanded to “Ask God.” Also, the book of James tells us…

You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2)

Could it be the reason God hasn’t helped is that you have never given him the opportunity? Think about the biggest problem you’re facing today. Have you asked God for help? Now, think about the smallest problem you are facing. Have you asked God for help with that? It’s ok to pray for parking spaces and laundry stains and runny noses and late appointments and broken water heaters and office conflicts and financial problems and marital problems and rebellious children and…cancer. If it concerns you, it concerns God. Bring your requests to him.

The first step to getting rid of worry is pray like you ought to pray—make everything a matter of prayer. Secondly…(Tomorrow)

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