Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lent? Don't worry about it.

I remember one Lent, years ago, that I said I would give up worrying. Now, I don't traditionally do anything during lent. I grew up in a very nontraditional Christian home. So, my classmates thought I was crazy. They must’ve thought, “No one can give up worrying. That’s not something you can tangibly give up for God.” I had tests coming up, prom, graduation, parties, basketball games and everything in between. And though life seemed very stress free, now looking back, I remember myself often worrying about small things, things that don’t really matter. I tried not to worry by avoiding the situations, not getting involved or putting off the stress by leaving it for another day. It was all in my own strength and I failed consistently. So I sat in worry, though I played it off like I wasn't thinking about it.

Now, I’m working through things that seem harder. I’d like to find a reasonable apartment in a convenient location. I’m not sure what my future holds and from the outside I should probably try to find a different job. I’m trying to give up character flaws, or as I like to call it, unrighteousness. Before, I would have tried to put these worries off, or tried to make them less stressful by searching on Craigslist or Monster.com. However, as I read through Jesus’ teachings, I can’t help but realize that He tells us not to be anxious, and when we worry and fester we aren’t trusting in Him. Whoa! Not trusting in Him?

You might be thinking, “Oh, hey. I’m trusting in God, but I need to worry about this because it’s a big deal!” or “In the past this thing happened, so I have the right to worry.”

I can understand those points. It’s natural to worry. It’s how we’re taught to handle stress. But what if I told you that you could have peace in all situations? What if I told you God wants you to live a carefree life? Your rent check bounces? No worries, God has it worked out. Your car breaks down? Peace, the Lord is with you.

I read this passage by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book the Cost of Discipleship and it gave me something to think about. He writes, “Anxiety is characteristic of the Gentile, for they rely on their own strength and work instead of relying on God. They do not know that the Father knows that we have need of all these things, and so they try to do for themselves what they do not except from God. But the disciples know that the rule is ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’”

Wait. We’re the disciples, not the Gentiles. Take a minute to think about how often do you worry. Think now about who you believe God is. Do you really believe he cares about every one of your needs?

If you answer no, that’s ok. God wants you to trust Him. He wants you to know that he cares for all your needs. Just do as he instructs and the trusting comes more naturally.

Bonhoeffer goes on to write, “…The kingdom is none other than the righteousness of Matthew 5 and 6, the righteousness of the cross of following Christ beneath the cross. Fellowship with Jesus and obedience to his commandment come first, and all else follows. Worldly cares are not a part of our discipleship, but distinct and subordinate concerns. Before we start thinking thought for our life, our food and clothing, our work and families, we must seek the righteousness of Christ.”

It only takes trusting God to meet our needs.

So this week when you’re worrying, here’s a practical application. Do what Paul instructs. In Philippians 4:6-7 he writes, “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 minds in Christ Jesus.”

Just lift it up. Say, “God, I don’t know what to do in this situation. I’m weak, but I trust in you because you are my strength. I thank you in advance for being with me and giving me peace. Thank you for caring about my needs. Thank you for being with me.” And say this every time you worry.

Eventually it will be as Bonhoeffer writes.

“After he has been following Christ for a long time, the disciple of Jesus will be asked, ‘Lacking ye anything?’ and he will answer, ‘Nothing, Lord.’ How could he when he knows that despite hunger and nakedness, persecution and danger, the Lord is always at his side?”

He’s with you. Now, go in peace and serve the Lord.

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