Tag Archives: Worry

From Grace Comes Hope – A Quintet of Cinquains

Without
the grace of God
I would be lost, alone
life itself quite impossible
hopeless

Without
the love of God
I would be unloving
my life so self-centered and me
unkind

Without
the light of Christ
I would be in darkness
unable to see my blessings
forlorn

Without
the peace of Christ
I would be most fearful
worrying about little things
timid

With all
God’s grace and love
His incredible light
peace from the heart of a Savior
comes hope

 

I shared this today for Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub, where Grace talks about punctuation in poetry.

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Don’t Worry – My Tuesday Three

Worry plagues the human race and has the power to destroy, derail, and plunge us into despair. Worry serves no useful purpose. Unlike planning and preparing, worry is a state of the mind with no action associated with it. I recently heard a statistic that 95% of what people worry about never happens. I suspect that for avid worriers that number is even higher.

For My Tuesday Three, I wanted to share my three favorite Bible passages about worry, and the answer the Lord gives us on how to combat worry.

The first passage is from Matthew and is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 26:25-30 (NIV).

I love how Jesus bluntly reminds us that we can’t add a single hour to our life by worrying; it just doesn’t help anything. The key to not worrying is to have faith that God loves us and will care for us. After all, He cares for birds and flowers that are much less valuable to Him than we are, so why do we think He won’t care for us?

The second passage is from 1 Peter and includes similar advice to what Jesus said in Matthew:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:7-11 (NIV).

Just that first verse is a good one, and so easy to remember. It echoes Jesus’ words that God cares for each of us. I once wrote a whole poem based on that single verse. But if you continue reading you see that the advice to cast your anxiety on Jesus doesn’t mean you should think nothing bad could ever happen. In fact, this passage tells us that we will encounter suffering, which is what most people worry about. But still worry doesn’t help. Rather we need to be prepared for what might happen, and trust that God will never leave us in our suffering. We need to have faith that whatever comes our way is only temporary and that Christ will restore us.

The third passage, from Philippians, is one I can quote from memory, and I often do quote it to other people when they say they are anxious or worried about something. Next to John 14:6, it is my favorite Bible verse. I once was a terrible worrier, and this is the verse that truly helped me to leave that behind me and trust God.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV).

The advice of this short passage is priceless and true. Instead of worrying, this passage tells us to pray about our concerns “with thanksgiving.” Remember, God cares. He wants to know how we feel and what our needs are. If we have a sick loved one and we want them to be well, He wants to hear about that from us. In the process, we need to thank Him for how He will handle the situation. If we have lost our job or are just unhappy in the one we have, we need to bring our petition for a new job and for financial support to the Lord, and thank Him for the provisions He has made in our life thus far. Whatever the need, whatever the petition, whatever it is you might be worrying about, bring it to God in prayer, thanking Him for His love and mercy.

The second part of this passage is my favorite. It tells us that the result of bringing our concerns to God in prayer is that we will know peace in our hearts and minds. It is a peace that “transcends all understanding.” It’s not logical, it is spiritual. It is a peace I never want to live without even though I have no idea how He has placed it in my heart and mind.

Do you have a tendency to worry about the future? Do “what if’s” plague your thinking? Are you in despair because you are sure the worst will happen any minute? Turn all your worries over to God. He cares and He knows that what you need is peace in your heart and mind so that you can face each new day with faith and courage.

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Did I Forget to Pray?

It has been almost a year since I wrote the post An Attitude of Kneeling about how I had begun literally kneeling to pray each morning. It has been a wonderful habit that has gotten me through many a difficult day. Prayer is such a powerful antidote to the human tendency to give in to worry, doubt, fear, and heartache. The devil tries to keep us down with these negative feelings and thoughts. I think God knew this year was going to be a challenging one for me in many ways when He spoke to me about the importance of kneeling to pray.

Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, encourages the believers on how they can resist the schemes of the devil to paralyze them with fear and doubt, closing with the instruction to pray.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. . . . And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:10-11, 18.

But this weekend, for some reason, I skipped my morning prayer time all three days. I never even thought about it. Saturday was a day spent with my family, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and playing video games. Sunday there wasn’t time before church because we had to be there early so my son could be ready to run the slide show. Monday was a day off from work and I was busy writing on this blog and reading other blogs, doing more laundry, and thinking about what to make for dinner while my husband was off playing frisbee golf. I was listening to my iPod and the day was going fine.

Before I knew it, a dark cloud of worry, doubt, fear, and heartache came over me on Monday afternoon. There was a sadness in my heart that is difficult to describe. But still I did not pray.

This morning, back to my routine of getting ready for work, I kneeled to pray. It was then that I realized I had skipped my prayer time all weekend. By doing so, I had failed to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” I had not put each day in God’s hands and asked for His wisdom and guidance. Had I done so, I would have been prepared for the doubt and worry that came to my mind mid-afternoon. I would have been prepared to take my stand against the devil’s schemes.

Many people dismiss the power of prayer, but in reality it is not the prayer itself that is powerful. It is God, on whom we call and in whom we trust when we pray, who is powerful. Prayer reminds us of the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit within us and puts Him in charge of our thoughts. Time spent talking with God, sharing our concerns and stopping to listen to His counsel, is essential in a world filled with difficulties and challenges. Often when I kneel to pray I hear Him say, “Be still, and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10. When I reflect on that thought, just knowing that He is God and that He loves me, because God is love (1 John 4:8), I am strengthened for the day and am reminded of the blessings He has given me.

Throughout the Gospels, we see examples of Jesus praying. If Jesus, who was Himself God incarnate, believed it was important for Him to be in communication with the Father through prayer, why should I be any different? If I am struggling through a day, just an ordinary day like any other, besieged by doubts and fear, the first thing I must ask myself is, “Did I forget to pray?” Most likely the answer will be “Yes.” Because if I remember to pray, if I remember to kneel before God and seek His wisdom and strength, I will be able to stand against the devil’s schemes.

The next time you are struggling through an ordinary day or a particularly difficult one, remember God is there to help you through. All you need to do is remember to pray.

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A Peaceful Heart Doesn’t Fear

Spend five minutes reading the newspaper or an online news source and you could easily become fearful about the future of our world and your own future. Unemployment is up, random killings happen left and right, cancer and heart disease remain a deadly spectre for many in spite of billions spent on research, and natural disasters seem to occur more and more often in catastrophic proportions. Yes, fear is the typical human response to the current state of our world.

But there is another response that is better than the typical human response. It is the response that Christians are called to have in the face of potential tragedy and loss. Dr. Henry Blackaby, a Baptist minister and Christian author wrote:

Christians ought not to be smothered in fear. There is a spiritual readiness, where we return to having the peace of God stand guard over our hearts and minds. What an incredible witness it is to a lost and fearful society when the Christian acts like a child of God, living under the loving sovereignty of the Heavenly Father. The Christian needs to walk in peace, so no matter what happens they will be able to bear witness to a watching world.

To walk in peace. What an awesome concept! The Christian should let peace reign in his or her heart even in the face of adversity. Yesterday, I was reading Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, and was encouraged by the joy and peace that Paul and his companions maintained in spite of their dire circumstances. I was reading the New Living Translation and liked the way this passage was worded in that translation:

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:5-18.

One thing I like about this passage is that Paul quotes from my favorite Psalm 116 when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” This is a Psalm that reminds me of the trials I have been through and survived by the grace of God. It reminds me of the tears and pain that left me feeling lost and hopeless, and of how God healed me. Because I have memories of what He has brought me through so far, I know the peace and light that will see me through the trials that are sure to come. This is a peace that transcends human understanding. It is a peace that only the heart can fathom, and that my heart must share with the hurting world around me.

Paul faced as much difficulty as we do today, maybe even more than the average person really faces, but he did not fear. He held fast to the peace and light of Jesus Christ to withstand the many trials life put in his path. And today he is seeing that which we cannot yet see. Someday I will see, too. But for now, I hold fast to the  peace and light of Jesus Christ.

Are you living in fear because of the evils and trials of this world? You don’t have to let fear paralyze you and keep you from living a full and abundant life. You can know His peace and light. It won’t always keep the trials from coming your way, but He will take you through them to ultimate victory with a peaceful heart.

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Let Peace Replace Worry

What is the most important thing in life? Is it money? Food? Shelter? Family? Friends? All of these things are important, but they are not the most important. They are not worth worrying about, because worry doesn’t help us obtain any of these things that we need. Jesus said:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? . . . But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:25, 27, 33.

This passage doesn’t mean if we believe in God then we will be rich and have every material thing we could ever dream of. It does mean that if our priority is knowing God then He will ensure that we have what we need to survive. Not only in this life, but for eternity.

And yet as humans we worry, even though it doesn’t do any good. It doesn’t “add a single hour” to our life. Whenever I feel a little worry come upon me, I remember my favorite memory verse from the Apostle Paul:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7.

It is that peace that takes away worry. It is a peace that we can’t understand with logic and reasoning, but we feel in our hearts.

Are you worried about something today? Set your cares at the throne of grace and walk away with the peace of Jesus Christ. Even if you aren’t quite sure the worry is gone, thank God for His answer to your prayer. Then do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, until there is no more worry and only peace abounds in your heart.

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Love Drives Out Fear

Fear and worry are common in our society today. And people seem to worry and be afraid about the simplest things. The other day I was talking to a friend about some pictures she needed to get framed. She said she had taken them to the frame shop three times, but had never left them to be framed because she was afraid she would make the wrong choice of frames. She had finally left them on her fourth visit, but was now afraid to go pick them up.

I used to worry a lot. I was afraid to talk to people; I was even afraid to leave my house. I remember having a panic attack at a traveling Smithsonian exhibit because I lost sight of my husband. In retrospect, it was silly to be afraid because I knew where our car was, I had the keys, and I knew the way home. Plus I knew he was there somewhere. But fear gripped me anyway.

This kind of fear and worry do not come from God. They are lies of the evil one. The apostle John wrote: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:16. When we know and understand God’s love, there is no need to fear. Even in our most difficult trials, He has won for us the ultimate victory through His love and sacrifice. In the words of the old hymn, “Though the devil may ruin, though trials may come, It is well with my soul.”

But how do we avoid fear and worry in a world that caters to and preys on these emotions? The answer is given to us in 1 Peter 5:7, which is the basis of this poem:

On 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety
On Him
.
All?
Yes, all.
Keep none for yourself.

Why would He
Want all my anxiety?
Because
He cares for you
.

Why would I
Want to give it away?
Because
Then you will know
Peace and freedom
For your soul.

God’s perfect love has driven out fear from my heart. I pray He will do the same for you.

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Where Do Seeds of Faith Grow?

One of my favorite parables that Jesus told is the parable of the sower, which is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels. The account in Luke states the parable like this:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” Luke 8:5-8. See also Matthew 13 and Mark 4.

Jesus later explains what this parable means, because apparently many, including His disciples, did not understand the point He was trying to make. In this parable, the seed represents the Word of God and the different types of soil on which the seed falls represent the hearer of the Word. When I first read this parable, I prayed and asked God to make me like the good soil.

I don’t want to be like the path and have the Word snatched away from me by the devil. I imagine that the people this refers to are those who hear the Word with skepticism, those who see themselves as extremely intellectual. If what they hear in the Word can’t be proven by what they see in the physical world, they cannot believe. Although I consider myself somewhat intellectual (I did, after all, graduate cum laude from law school), I think I have always believed in God to some degree and I was never concerned that I would be like the path.

I don’t want to be like the soil among the rocks and have the Word wither in my heart for lack of moisture. This soil refers to people who believe the Word when they hear it, but they don’t do anything to help it grow in their hearts. I think that any Christian can be in danger of being like this soil. If we do not continue to feed on the Scriptures and water our faith in prayer, the Word has less strength in our lives. I have struggled with this, but continue to pray that God’s Word will not wither within me.

I don’t want to be like the soil full of thorns and have the Word choked out in my heart. The thorns refer to the worries, riches, and pleasures of this world. The person who is like this soil hears the Word and believes, but they are distracted by worries of the world, rely on the riches of the world, and put too much emphasis on the pleasures of the world. I used to be a huge worrier and think that making more money was the answer. But for the grace of God, the Word could easily have been choked out in my heart by these things, but God has taught me to trust in Him and not to worry.

I want to be like the good soil and have the Word grow in me and yield a crop to glorify God. I believe that God has answered my prayer. The Word of God has taken root in my heart. He has taught me to keep it watered with prayer, Bible study, and Christian fellowship. And most of the time I do not worry about tomorrow or trust in wealth or earthly pleasures for my happiness.

But sometimes I feel like the good soil that is right next to the field of thorns and adjacent to the rocky soil. Life can be difficult at times and maintaining focus on God alone is a challenge. Sometimes I forget to pray or read my Bible, and then my faith feels a little dry. I hope I am yielding a crop that glorifies God, but I can do so only by His power and grace.

So what kind of soil are you? I hope and pray you will be like the good soil, that faith will not be snatched from you or wither for lack of deep roots or be choked out by the worries and riches of the world.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:17-19a.

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Wag More, Bark Less

I’ve seen this great bumper sticker that says “Wag More, Bark Less.” I think it is terrific advice. What a better world this would be if we all wagged more and barked less.

The question is, how do we do that in a world that wags less and barks more? How do we maintain a positive attitude when things are difficult and stressful? I know the answer, but today I did not do what I know. Today, I have been one of those who wagged less and barked more. Today, I’ve let the little things get to me from the very start of the day. Actually, it started yesterday.

So what is it that I know but did not do? Pray. I know that if I pray more, I will naturally bark less. In other words, if I pray more, God will give me the strength and wisdom to be able to find and focus on the positive aspects of what is going on around me. If I pray more, God will give me the peace and grace to respond to the situations I face with more wagging and less barking.

But this morning, I spent about 60 seconds in prayer even though I knew God was calling me to sit in His presence for a longer period of time to prepare for my day. He knew what was coming. He knew what I was feeling. He knew I needed His strength, wisdom, peace, and grace for this day, and He was willing to give it all to me. But I was in a hurry, worried I would be late for my 9:00 meeting, so I didn’t listen.

Even Jesus prayed to the Father when He faced a difficult situation. He prayed in Gethsemane knowing His arrest and crucifixion were soon to come. And He commanded His disciples to do the same. Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:41. If Jesus needed to pray and His disciples who were with Him needed to pray, what makes me think I can get through any day, much less one like today, without spending some time with my Father in Heaven?

I am thankful that tomorrow is another day in which I will have another chance to lean on the strength, wisdom, peace, and grace of my God. Tomorrow is another day to pray more so I can wag more and bark less.

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Between Me and God

I have the following poem hanging in my office. I don’t know who wrote it, or I would give them credit.

They may see the good you do
as self serving.
Continue to do good.

They may see your generosity
as grandstanding.
Continue to be generous.

They may see your warm and caring nature
as a weakness.
Continue to be warm and caring.

For you see, in the end,
it is between you and God.
It never was between you and them anyway.

So often we worry about what others think of what we do or what we say. But truly the only one that matters is God. For if we do what is right in God’s eyes, most of the time most people will see that we have done what is right. When they do, God will be glorified.

This poem reminds me of two great verses in the Bible:

Matthew 5:15-16 – “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

1 Peter 2:11-12 – “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

So never forget, it’s between you and God. If we all try to do what is pleasing to God, the world will be a better place.

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Roses, Thorns, and Garden Gloves

It was a beautiful day on Saturday, and I managed to get all of my roses pruned. My dear husband got the clippers and a pair of garden gloves out of the shed for me. What a sweetie!

I usually don’t wear garden gloves when I prune the roses or for any other type of yard work. The reason is that I have fairly long fingers and most garden gloves don’t fit me very well. If the fingers are long enough, the base of the glove is too big. If the glove fits my hand okay, the fingers are too short.  But because my husband got them out for me, I decided to go ahead and wear them.

I learned something from wearing those gloves. In my blog on Saturday I wrote that getting scratched by the thorns when pruning roses was inevitable, but I learned that I was wrong. Wearing the gloves and long sleeves, I didn’t get a single scratch!

This got me thinking more about what I wrote on Saturday about having to deal with the thorns of life if you wanted to experience the beauty of the roses of life. I realized that although there may be thorns or worries in life, with the proper protection the injury they might cause is not inevitable.

This train of thought led me to one of my favorite passages of scripture from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:10-18.

Life is full of challenges and difficulties, and one can easily be overcome by thorns and worries. But if we put on the full armor of God as protection against the thorns, we can make it through without any serious spiritual injury. The key elements of this armor are truth, the righteousness of Christ, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer. Just as my dear husband brought me garden gloves to prune the roses, our dear Father in Heaven has given us the armor we need to navigate the thorns of life. We just have to take a moment each day to put it on. Are you wearing your armor today?

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