Can I just say that I worry.
Anxiety is something that is a killer of the soul.  He’s a thief really.  I’m not quite sure why I call it a “he”.  It’s not like it’s masculine…anyway….Anxiety and worry, they are indeed a thief of joy and peace.
That’s hard for me to say.  You might think that’s weird because everybody worries, right?  I mean there is a little bit of that in all of us.  And to that I would agree.  I think to some degree we can all relate to the feelings of the unknown, of what is going to happen next, and the anxiety that can come as a result of those types of thoughts.
But I worry….probably too much…Ok, not probably.  I worry too much.   How much worry is too much worry?  Is there a threshold of some sort?  My theory… if it begins to control me, my behaviors, my actions, my words, then it’s probably too much and it’s probably really ugly to God.
I think that’s why Jesus and Paul both in Scripture had much to say about worry, about anxiety.  There are others, but these two come to mind first.   During one of Jesus’ most famous sermons (Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5-7) He addresses worry.  (Matthew 6:25-34). It’s a good read for sure!  And I’m totally into what Jesus has to say because, well, He is part of the Trinity 3 so he kinda carries some weight there…
But it is what Paul tells me that I find so intriguing.  He says don’t be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6-7).  In fact in that passage, Paul gives a recipe, an antidote for worry.  He tells us
  • Don’t be anxious.
  • Pray about everything.
  • Be thankful.
  • Give requests (needs) to God (and trust Him with them)
It is almost as if Paul is saying “Hey!  Here is what you do when you feel worried or anxious, when you feel like it’s overwhelming and taking control…PRAY!”
And not just about what you are worried about.  He says everything.  Then he adds on be thankful which sounds, well, just weird at first.  But think about what happens when you begin to “count your blessings”.  What happens on the inside when you begin to start looking for the things you have to be thankful for.
You have an inward shift!  Your thoughts have shifted.  What you think about determines what you feel.  It’s huge!  And it’s your choice.  You can choose to shift what you think about.  Yes thoughts can “pop” into our heads.  But you and I can absolutely choose how long we entertain those thoughts.  Dismiss them quickly when they don’t belong with prayer.
What happens when we do this?  Well Paul tells us…Peace.  And not just any peace.  This is super powered  peace!  Thanos’ gauntlet ain’t got nothin’ on this power!  This is not just a peace that equals lack of conflict . This is a peace that guarantees something far greater!  It provides two critically important shields.
One over our hearts and one over our minds.  Emotions and thoughts.  Hey!  There those are again!
Ultimately we worry because something somewhere has impacted our sense of security or the security of someone we love – a family member with cancer, decreasing income, the unknown, loss of a loved one, significant changes.  All these and more can impact our sense of security.
And it is here that I’d like to land my plane and bring it home to Jesus.  There was a time that Jesus talked about security that is easily missed.  If you were at the last Upward game this season, you’ve heard part of this.  And if so, let it serve as a reminder.  If not, then don’t miss this.
Jesus  is setting out on a journey in Mark 10.  A man runs up to him and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus sort of turns it back to this guy and says “You know the commandments”  and Jesus goes through some of the Big Ten (commandments that is, not football).  And this guy tells Jesus that he’s done all these things.  In other words, he’s followed the rules and obeyed the laws.
Jesus looks at him with compassion and love and tells him, “Yup!  You got those right!  But you are missing it still.  Go sell all that you own and give the money to the poor”
Could you imagine this guy’s face?  He’s probably all like “Wait….What?!”
He walks away sad.  He had a lot of money and a lot of stuff.
So much can be pulled from this story, but I want you to focus on just this one thing right here. Jesus points out one incredibly important fact. Our security can only be based in Him.  Nothing else.  Following the rules are great.  So is money.  But neither will give you the peace that Jesus gives.  Nothing will give you hope like Jesus does.
And nothing will calm your worry or anxiety like Jesus will.
The guy in the story was basing his security in money and the law.  Jesus wanted him to think differently.  And He wants us to think differently too!
Prayer is one way to battle anxiety and worry.  It makes me think differently.  It brings me back to Jesus.  I know that I still have moments where I feel overwhelmed…scared of the unknown.  But I get to choose.  I can choose to sit in those thoughts, or I can choose Jesus.  I can bring those requests, those needs, to Jesus, in a spirit of thankfulness, knowing that in Him, I have all that I need.  And I am reminded that I am safe in Him.
The result?  Peace.
So today, I want you to choose.  Choose not worry or anxiety.  Instead turn those thoughts into opportunities that connect you with Jesus in prayer.  These are the moments that will grow you in your faith and draw closer to Him – and remind you that His peace, the peace that Paul describes, is yours.