Sunday, March 02, 2008

Worry Doesn't Help

I read an encouraging chapter in To Fly Again: Surviving the Tailspins of Life by Gracia Burnham. She is the woman who wrote In the Presence of My Enemies. She and her husband endured a life changing trial in the jungle with Islamic extremists. It's a tragic story that will make you cry. To Fly Again is her second book. In this book there is a chapter called: Worry Doesn't Help. She had a lot to worry about while in captivity but she rises above it again and again. She is an incredible woman! I would like to share portions of the chapter:

"Worry is Atheism" this was a devotional by Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones. He was away from his wife and family on a trip, and a well-meaning hostess said to him one evening, "You have had a quiet day; you've had time to worry." I felt inwardly startled. "Time to worry" - as if a Christian ever has "time to worry"! The Christian has expunged worry from his vocabulary... A person who worries says, "I cannot trust God; I'll take things into my own hands." Result? Worry, frustration, incapacity to meet the dreaded things when it does come. With God, you can meet it, overcome it, assimilate it into the purpose of your life. Alone, you fuss and fume and are frustrated. Worry says, "God doesn't care, and so He won't do anything - I'll have to worry it through." Faith says, "God does care, and He and I will work it out together. I'll supply the willingness, and He will supply the power - with that combination we can do anything."

Gracia goes on to say...One dictionary definition of worry is "to torment oneself with disturbing thoughts." The active very from is interesting, isn't it? Worry is something we do to ourselves. It is not an involuntary twitch, and allergic reaction to some mysterious chemical, a spell that is cast upon us from the outside. We initiate the worrying. We torment ourselves. The word's roots trace back to the Old English wyrgan, "to strangle." That is precisely what worry does to us; it cuts off our air. It prevents us from inhaling the Divine Breath, the Holy Spirit of God. Instead, it slowly asphyxiates us. In my dictionary, the word worry comes just after wormwood and worn-out. Right behind it comes worse and worst. What an awful page! What an awful wast of mental energy.

The antidote to worry, as everyone who has ever read the familiar Philippians 4:6-7 knows, is to turn to the Lord. "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace...." It sounds commonplace, I know. But it is still true.

There are many instances in the Bible where the modus operandi of the greatest monarch Israel every knew, was to repeatedly, consistently, even incessantly, "inquire of the Lord." The response to that inquiry brought calmness, clarity and wisdom. God does not mean for us to sit and fret, stew, agonize, wring our hands, or be troubled. Instead, he invites us to interact with him, to gain his perspective, and to rest in his good and perfect will for our lives.

In the jungle I quickly realized that in order to keep pace with the others on the trail, I was going to need a considerable supply of drinking water. When I didn't have it, my face would begin to flush, my mouth would go dry, and fatigue would set in rapidly. I would plead with the captors, "Please, I need water. Can you get me some water?" I would also beg God. "Lord, I need water. It's really bad. God, help me! I need water." I was imploring him over and over, almost frantically. I was hammering on heaven's door. My anxiety would rise another notch when I watched the Abu Syyaf using up precious water for purely ceremonial purposes, such as washing their feet or their face before evening prayers. Not being Muslim, I found this to be wholly unnecessary. What a waste of the resource I craved so badly. Then one day on the trail, as I was harassing God once again, it began to dawn upon me that he knew very well about my need for hydration. He wasn't oblivious to that fact. My prayers gradually changed from, "God, water-now!" to "Lord, you know what I need. You understand my body's need for water. Help me be patient until you take care of my need." And he did. Not long after, a captor gave me my very own water bottle! It was made of translucent plastic, with a handle and a red top; it held about a liter. I could fill it up myself every time we came to a stream, and no one would take it away from me or ask to use it. I felt God had restored my ability to control the situation. God is big enough to make his own decisions and manage his own actions. He doesn't have to run everything by us before he acts. he is in charge, and we are not. If he doesn't need to worry about the current state of affairs (and obviously he doesn't), then neither do we.

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