Tuesday, February 28, 2012

All this worry, worry, worry

I read a blog post the other day by a woman who gave up worrying for Lent. She tells of her experience dealing with the sin of worry. I haven't been able to quit thinking about it. The "sin" of worry. Worrying is a sin. Ouch. I have struggled with worry and anxiety for a long time. I accepted it as my normal and have tried different tricks to overcome it or ignore it. Though some have worked in varying degrees, they don't get to the root of the problem, the root of my sin. The problem is that I don't trust God. The problem is that my view of who God is and what he does isn't the same as who God says he is and what he says he does. I think my life should be easy. I think nothing bad should ever happen to me, that God should protect me. I think that hard things aren't fair and that other people have life easier than I do. But none of that is true. More bluntly put, they are lies straight from Satan himself and undermine my relationship with Christ.

You see, I've gotten into this habit of thinking I deserve the things I want and thinking that Christ owes me something. It all started innocently enough, I'm sure, since I have not consciously said "God, you owe me." It has been more subtle than that. I start looking at people around me and the lives they lead. I want what they have- happiness, money, no worries, a nice home, a good job, etc. They give glory to God for all they have and it makes me ask, "Where are you God? Why don't you answer my prayers the way you answer theirs?"

And you see, that is my problem. As someone said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." I took my eyes off Jesus and began looking at everyone else around me. I began to falter. Then I fell into sin. I envied, I coveted, I worried. I stopped trusting God and instead looked to other things for my security- Micah, money, a job. Then it expanded to other things. I began thinking that if I looked better or talked better (no Southern accent) then things would be different and I would be happy. If only I had this or that or could travel here or there I would enjoy life so much more. If only I knew how to shoot a gun or had an alarm or lived behind a gate then I would be safe. If I had money then I could pay off our student loans, buy a house or rent a nice one, not have to worry about rising gas prices. But...BUT...NONE of that matters. Luke 17:33 says, "If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it" (NLT). And I get it now. It's not that I will die (though eventually we all will unless Jesus comes back before then). It's that I will be miserable and miss out in life as I do everything in my power to save my life and attain all these things and compare myself to other people (I can't take credit for this idea. I read it somewhere recently as someone explained Luke 17:33, but I can't remember where/who). John 10:10 says that Christ came so we could have abundant life. That life is exactly what I lose when I take my eyes off Christ.

So by now you may be wondering how we got here from the title of this post. Simply put: worry is a sin. Sin and a misunderstanding of who God is and what he does lead me to doubt God's goodness. That leads me to worry. If I get rid of the sin, I can get rid of the worry. It sounds simple, but I am struggling. As I type this I am trying not think about the storms forecast for tomorrow (and Friday, for that matter). Most people who know me know how scared I am of severe storms and tornadoes. It is a battle for me. I have learned that there is healthy concern and having a watchful eye, but for me that often turns to plain worry about something bad happening. I have lived through bad storms and even a tornado. It was terrifying. But ya know what? Even if a bad storm hits my town or my home, God still holds me in the palm of his hand. Even if I lose all material possessions, God is still good and he is still faithful. Even if I lose my life- glory to God! Satan can never, ever take me from God's hand. As the song says: "No power of hell, no scheme of man could ever pluck me from his hand. Til he returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand." That is my life song and I sing at the top of my lungs any time we sing it in church. It is what I want for my life- a heart so tuned to Jesus that I don't fear hard times or even death. I simply trust God and who he is. Please be praying for me. I know many others fight this battle of worry and I pray in Christ's name that he would break the chains of worry on all of us. This may be a lifelong long battle for me (I hope not), but I claim victory in the name of Jesus!

I will leave you with the lyrics of "In Christ Alone." I pray you will be blessed and when you hear it maybe you will think of me and pray for me. And when I hear it, I will praise God for who is he and pray for all of you who are in this battle against worry with me.

"In Christ Alone"

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh

Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,

This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

Today, for those who may not know, is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent, the season before Easter on the church calendar. I didn't grow up in a tradition that observed Lent or the church calendar. My first encounter with things like liturgy and the church calendar happened in college. Since then I've attended a seminary in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition and have learned even more about what the season of Lent is about. I don't intend it explain it here- I'm sure you can find a good explanation on wikipedia. I will say, unlike the Catholic tradition, I don't see Lent as a time where I need to pay penance for my sins. I know that when I confess my sins and ask for forgiveness, God forgives me for them. There is no need for me to hang my head in defeat and punish myself in order to find some favor with God. I like this article I read today. It explains why Lent is about experiencing more, not about giving something up.

This year for Lent, I have decided to abstain from something that will affect my life and my attitude. It will daily point me back to Christ as I remove one thing from my life in order to replace it with Christ. It's not important what I'm giving up, as God reveals different things to each one of us. The important thing is that I am going to use this time as a refocusing on God and surrender of the perceived control I have on my life. I don't want to simply mildly disrupt my life for 40 days. I want to make lasting changes and celebrate Easter as someone who has been transformed.

I will try to blog parts of this journey and what I am learning. I may also set up a blog schedule and blog something different each day (i.e. Lenten updates on one day, a new recipe on another day, something marriage related on another day, etc.). If you've noticed, I have been cautious to commit myself to anything blog related as I'm sure I have not always followed through. But as I feel God calling me to write as a way of keeping me accountable to my commitments to him, I sense that this whole blog thing will become a part of my daily, or at least weekly, life. As always, we'll see.

If you are observing Lent this year, I'd love to hear what you are learning or what God is doing in your life. Even if you aren't observing Lent, feel free to share things God is teaching you.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What Now?

I have been thinking about starting a new blog, one to which I will consistently post. It would be a blog with more direction, something with purpose. So much has changed in the past 9 months or so since getting married, and there seems to be no end in sight for change around here. We have moved twice, endured through some (minor) health issues, graduated, and now we are embarking on life free of school work but full of applying for jobs and attempting to discern where God is leading us next. To say the task is daunting would be an understatement. We are thankful to still be in the seminary community (Micah is still employed there) but looking forward to being settled and having permanent housing and jobs. I'd be lying if I said that we haven't let the stress get to us. We are much better this week than we have been, more secure in where God has presently placed us and feeling more confident about the future. We know God has a plan and purpose for our lives together and separately, and we are trying to keep our eyes fixed on that. But, I am getting antsy.

In the midst of all that, I am feeling the itch to write and feel like the Holy Spirit himself is prompting me. We'll see what happens and what direction this takes me. If I start a new blog, I'll be sure to let all two of you know :). As always, prayers are appreciated.

God is good and he has not left us alone or without hope!