The Neurotic Self-Examination Department is still hard at work, somewhere back there in my brain, outperforming their quotas for the 131rd quarter straight. I’d love to know what productivity methods they’re using, because I could make millions sharing them – I just cannot stop thinking about stuff. For example…should I include the nine months before my birth in that quarter count? If so, it’d be 134.
My pastor belted out another terrific sermon last night. I could sum it up in one sentence of his: “Gratitude doesn’t just sit there. It accomplishes something in our hearts. Gratitude gives way to hope.” It was about reminding oneself of God’s previous works and displays of power in our lives to gather hope for the future – relying on his prior and proven faithfulness to reassure ourselves for tomorrow.
And thought, that doesn’t work for me. Not for matters in this life.
As I shared last week, it’s tough to know what to expect out of God. I’m an existential thinker with a keen theology of suffering, and enough direct experience of it to rid myself of any peaches-and-cream naivete about the life God predicts for us. Therefore, it’s not God’s attributes, but his purposes, that leave me on tiptoe. I’ve never had a problem knowing God can; I just don’t know that he will. God’s ways are inscrutable, beyond our knowing. And we know they involve hardship. Honestly, he could flip my life sick and destitute in a single moment and never be evil, for he can turn that to his glory and his glory is far more important than my happiness. Ultimately, the only “sure thing” we can rely upon is heaven, and…
Then I stopped myself.
And I thought…am I just being made to spiritualize my fear?
Could it be that Satan is hijacking good Scripture in my mind…in the service of fear?
We see Satan do this all the time. Thrice he quotes Scripture to Jesus – all true verses, but applied in a suspiciously broad manner, and here’s the giveaway – all with the goal of getting Jesus to renounce the path of surrender and obedience, take matters into his own hands. That God’s words would roll off that demon’s tongue is revolting. But it does happen.
In my case, the giveaway was worry. While all those thoughts above are true, I realized I was praying and then spending an awful lot of time thinking about the forthcoming answers. Why was I doing that? Was it any different than common worry? Because the fruit of something is a giveaway of its source, and if the fruit is worry…
I decided that I would start offering my prayers to God and then let them go. Let him decide. I asked God to imbue me with the trust and mental discipline to leave my prayers at his feet, instead of snatching them back up and turning them inside out and upside down as I so expertly do.
And if God said no?
Well, I figured I had a choice: spend the wait (days or months or years) tied up in knots of anxiety and exhausting dread and then experience the no, or spend the time free and light, living my life, and deal with the no when it comes. Which option carries a lot less cumulative pain?
It’s honestly taken years to develop the discipline to leave my prayers in God’s hands. Christians don’t always realize just how much fierceness and intentionality is required to build this stuff up. But it does build up, and it’s been one of the great treasures of my walk with God.
No more worry. I will rest on God’s faithfulness. He comes through for us so that we can expect it again.