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 hard to know what to expect from God. I’m an existential thinker with a keen theology of suffering – and enough direct experience of it to lose all peaches-and-cream naivete about the life God predicts for us. 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. His ways are inscrutable, beyond knowing. And they involve hardship. 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…
…and I end up in this wonderful little merry-go-round every time I fear something.
A possibility crops up. Whether manufactured in my mind or presented by real circumstances, it crops up, and I worry. It’s true: God isn’t required to give me a happy ending to this chapter. He could have purposes that involve disappointment, pain, and heartsickness. That’s all above my pay grade.
But one day it occurred to me…am I just spiritualizing 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 all with the goal of getting Jesus to renounce the path of surrender, take matters into his own hands. That’s the giveaway. That God’s holy words would even be permitted to roll off that demon’s tongue is revolting, but it does happen.
While all my thoughts above are true, I realized I was spending an awful lot of time thinking about forks in the road that hadn’t arrived yet. Why was I doing that? Was it any different than that kissing cousin of fear, common worry? Because the fruit of something is a giveaway of its source, and if the fruit is worry…
I decided to 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 going back to 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 burden?
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.
Worry had found a clever little backdoor into my life, one often missed by common teachings on the subject. God has exposed it. I will slam it shut with God’s truth.