The One Thing About Worry

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photo by Zerrick Burkey, Beaver Crossing, Nebraska

Getting Nowhere

Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives us something to do, but it doesn’t get us anywhere.

It gives us something to do, but that something is wasting time and effort as well as energy expended for nothing.

So why, then, do we worry? Why do we get our stomachs turned into a knot while we chew over a problem, especially when there is nothing we can do about the problem? What about the times we worry about the problems other people have? Why do we feel “called” to worry about someone else?

There isn’t a single one of us who hasn’t worried – or isn’t worrying now.

Do we enjoy being busy with things that detract us from God? Is it easier to worry than it is to find fulfillment in serving in the Kingdom of God?

What Worry Does

Worry takes energy from us that we could be using for something good.

Worry tells God, “I don’t trust You. You can’t take care of this, and I know more about it than You do.”

Worry takes time away from others and from good, important things.

It sinks us down into the doldrums and we become afraid, sad, or depressed – perhaps all three. When we worry, we are not at rest. God wants us to be at rest.

Some of us are more prone to worrying. Some of us have temperaments that can sink us to a bottomless pit faster than one can say, “Don’t worry.” Some of us face situations that cause more concern than others. I get that.

What’s Wrong With Worry

Corrie ten Boom once said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” It’s true. We spend time and energy on things that take our attention away from Kingdom work, our relationship with God, and daily responsibilities.

Jesus said that since none of us can change our stature or live a minute longer if we worry, then we must not worry.

Worry is a sin. That’s reason enough to whittle away at the things that cause us to become worried.

Antidote for Worry

Jesus said when we are weary and burdened, we should come to Him and He will give us rest.

The Psalmist said we should throw our cares on Him, and He will sustain us.

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photo by Timothy Miller, Indiana

Jesus said that when we are worried or afraid, we should consider the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. “Look around you,” He told the people. “The birds don’t worry about finding food or shelter; the flowers don’t worry about what to wear. If God notices even when a sparrow falls, then He will certainly take care of you.”

What Jesus was telling us is this: Do not worry. Don’t worry about anything.
This is why: your God, who cares about you, is in control.

Totally true, but easier said than done.

So what’s a person to do when she is worried? There are so many unknowns out there, and sometimes not knowing is worse than actually knowing the truth.

The Frenzy of Worry

Truth be told, I’ve spent so much time worrying about things that never happened – all wasted energy and wasted focus. I can’t tell you how many funerals I’ve planned for my husband when he was late coming home or I could not get in touch with him for hours. I’ve planned funerals for my kids when I didn’t know where they were. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been awake at night, fretting over one of my kids – worrying about choices they were making, their safety, or other situations.  The one productive thing I could do about any of those things was praying and speaking Truth.

I’ve been awake at night fretting over relationships, health crises of others, and situations about which I could do absolutely nothing. I spent energy letting my mind run through all the what ifs. 

You know what I discovered? That there is no reason to waste my energy on Worry.

I can run the gauntlet of whats ifs and the final, “worst” outcome would be that someone I love goes to Heaven. Would that be so bad for them?  Absolutely not.  For me? Loss and pain, for sure. Would I find the grace I needed when/if that comes? You bet. So tell me again why I should worry?!

Other than driving me to storm the gates of Heaven (where my name is already known), there is really nothing that I can do that will change that about which I am concerned. Not one iota.

When worry comes knocking at my door, I sometimes let it slip in. Usually, I don’t realize I’ve opened that door.

You can be sure that if Worry knocked on my door and said to me, “I’m Worry – please let me in,” I’d be slamming the door in his face.

As it is, Worry comes in unannounced and uninvited.

Before I know it, I’ve made him welcome. I entertain Worry and find more things to make him comfortable staying longer. Before I have time to realize, I am spending my time and my energy feeding Worry instead of feeding my soul with the goodness of God.

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Battle Armor for Worry

Let me tell you what I do.

  • Sometimes I literally let my mind go down that What If trail – and I ask myself: IF What If actually happens, what then? Will I find that God’s grace is enough for me? Will I be willing to accept what has happened instead of living in the  IF ONLYs?
  • I recognize that what I have been doing is wrong. No excuses, no “but You don’t understand, God, why I have to worry!” I confess this Worry is wrong. It is sin.
  • I ask forgiveness of the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, who makes every blade of grass and knows the number of every strand of hair on my head (which is less now than it used to be).
  • I turn my focus to Who God is in thanksgiving. I do this because of some verses in scripture that I call my Worry Formula.

We are never advised not to pray about our concerns. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians,

Don’t be anxious about anything,

pray about everything with thanksgiving

and the peace of God will guard your heart and mind.

That’s the formula.

  1. Don’t be anxious about anything. STOP focusing on the problem. Focus on God’s Promises. Scripture is full of promises. He knows the end from the beginning. He will never, ever leave us. He is already in our tomorrows. Go to the Word and find His promises. Focus on those Promises.
  2. Pray about everything.  Turn your eyes on the One who makes all things new. Yes, yes, yes. Tell God your troubles. He already knows, but tell Him because this is what He said we should do. When you tell Him your troubles, remember His promises back to Him as well.
  3. Be thankful.  Turn your focus on what you have and not the what ifs or the if onlys. Being thankful changes our outlook. This formula doesn’t dissolve our troubles, but it does change our focus from who we are to Who He is.

If we follow this formula, it will change the way we do Worry.

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Turning Worrying into Action

  1. If there is something I can actually do (besides worry) I focus on doing and being. Sometimes there are things I can do. Certainly, I can pray.
  2. If there is nothing I can do about the situation (except pray), then I find something else to do with my time so I don’t have time to worry. One thing I can do is begin praying for others. Satan does not want me to pray – so often times He leaves me alone once I start praying for others.
  3. Invest in someone or something.  When I have “too much time” on my hands, I have more time for worry. There are so many good causes, so many hurting and lonely people around who can use our help and our cheer. Use your energy to invest in others instead of worrying. Doing something for someone else changes our focus. I know this works.

The One Thing About Worry

Worry robs us of joy.

It depletes of us energy.

It turns our attention from God’s PROMISES to Life’s PROBLEMS.

The one thing about Worry is this: It is sin, and it must not be allowed to be entertained or to stay.

 

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What to Do With Resentment

resentmentAs long as the world turns, we will struggle with resentment.

It is subtle and it’s often hidden. Sometimes resentment is masked so well that we hardly recognize it for what it truly is and where it can take us.

Life isn’t fair and other people have abilities, talents, and treasures that we wish we had. Rather than being happy for them, we find ourselves filled with resentment. Some folks make poor choices, but life continues for them like a song with no seeming consequences, and we find ourselves feeling resentful. We rather expect all things to be equal, but they just aren’t. So we become resentful.

The Very Beginning

You know where this started? Way back in the Garden of Eden – with the very first family.

God gave the first sons of Adam (Cain and Abel) interests and abilities that were different from each other.  They had the same parents, same genes, same bloodline, but they had different interests, and different abilities. God is allowed to do that. The boys didn’t get to choose their talents; they came along with the genetics.

First, we have Cain, the first born and a tiller of the ground. That’s a noble profession, for God had said that man was to till the ground.  Apparently, Cain was a good farmer.  I’m sure his produce was some of the best. He was obviously the first born and liked to be in charge. I get the feeling that folks didn’t readily tell him what to do.

Abel, the second born, was the younger brother, and a keeper of the sheep. It sounds like he was the farmer and took care of the animals. I get the feeling that he was bossed some by his older brother.

Both occupations require sweat and hard work. Both boys had their calling and their interests in life. Neither gifting was better or worse than the other. The problem wasn’t the giftings that were given to each son.

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The problem was that when it came time to bring an offering before the Lord, the eldest didn’t follow God’s instructions. The consequences of that choice caused resentment.

Cain pursued his own interests and brought the fruit of the land. It makes sense, really. Husbandry was his thing and it was where he was the most comfortable.  He could choose the most delectable produce and make sure it had no blemish. It wasn’t that being a farmer was wrong. The problem was that God had given specific instructions for how to bring Him an offering, and Cain failed the test.

Here comes younger brother Abel, the sheep herder.  He brings the firstlings of his flock to the Lord, and God has respect for his offering. Abel did it the way God said it had to be done. It wasn’t that Abel’s offering was better than what Cain brought. It wasn’t that Abel was a farmer.

The resentment problem wasn’t that Abel obeyed God, but that Cain didn’t.

As we are prone to do, Cain got upset. Everybody knew he was upset because the story line says that his countenance fell. Usually, when a person starts pouting, the purpose is to let others know that life isn’t fair, and that they’re upset; that they want things to be different. So Cain pouted.

God recognized the problem.

He asked Cain, “Why are you so upset? If you did well, then your offering would have been accepted. If you didn’t do well, then it’s because you sinned.” (Basically, God was saying, “Don’t be mad at Abel; he’s not the problem. You’re the problem because what you did was wrong.”)

If only Cain had listened to God. If only Cain had not resented Abel and become angry at him.

The problem started a long time before this offering episode. Could there possibly have been a previous discord between the brothers? It’s not likely that a pre-meditated murder occurred over one single incident. We sense that there was conflict, and it probably stemmed from sibling rivalry or resentment that went a long way back.

We don’t know the words exchanged between those two brothers that day in the field. All we know is that Cain talked with Abel when they were in the field. Subsequently, Cain rose up and killed Abel.

Why? What went wrong? How could a brother hate another brother so intensely that he would end his life?

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It Continues Today

It is still prevalent today. Siblings, relatives, coworkers and church folks struggle with rivalry and envy. Somebody has something we wish we had, and suddenly it becomes their fault for having something we wish we had.

We do the same thing. When it’s time to follow what God says we should do, we find a way to get around it and justify our attitudes because of what someone did or didn’t do to us.

When there is discord among our siblings, cousins, coworkers, or friends, we do well to stop and ask ourselves:  What is the real problem here?

Why am I upset with him/her? Does he have gifts I don’t want to acknowledge? Why can’t I compliment her for her abilities? What makes me want to hold back from affirming? Is it because I resent his talents? Is it because she has something I don’t have? Is it because he has something I want?

If only Cain had focused on what he had done that fell short of God’s standard instead of being angry with his brother! If only Cain had recognized his own jealousy instead of being angry at someone else!

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The Solution to Resentment

Each of us is faced with the choice to bless those who have what we wish we had.

Can we understand that not succumbing to our pain and disappointment will pave the way for future relationships? Can we grasp the concept that blessing someone else for what we don’t have acknowledges that God has chosen and gifted us as He desires – and chosen to gift them as well? We would do well to look beyond what we wish we had, what doesn’t seem fair, and recognize that often what seems so unfair has nothing to do with what someone else has done on their own. More often than not, what they have is the result of God’s decision to give through genetics and experiences. Can we let God be God or will we try to make Him out to be a god of our design?

One of the best ways to get beyond sibling rivalry, cousin conflict, or friend fiascos is to bless those with whom we have rivalry or conflict, especially if our conflict stems from jealousy or resentment.

What if we would stop and think about those whom we resent? What is it about them that we find so repulsive or that makes it hard to wish them well? Is it really something they have done, or is it their abilities, their talents, or their financial success? Was it because they might have made some good choices while ours were poor choices, or was it because God has gifted them in ways He hasn’t gifted us? Perhaps someone else made poor choices that affect us negatively today. How is that the fault of the people whom we resent, those who have what we can’t have? Either way, how is what happened to us their fault and a reason for our resentment?

There are days I’ve mixed a batch of bread and passed out a few loaves – not so much for the receivers as for myself.  I sensed an attitude brewing in me, and I knew if I didn’t do something positive, I’d be seething inside, building walls.

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So I make myself do the hard thing. I face my resentment and I bless by giving.

Amazingly, the giving lifts the darkness. The heavy silence in the car is gone. The first day back to work with the new supervisor who got the job I wanted is smooth sailing. My neighbor waves at me again. Others see that what I do is for Jesus and not for me. I’m not in bondage to what I wish I had.

When we can learn to bless others, we are no longer rivals. When we learn to bless others who have what we wish we had, we are overcomers. When we learn to bless others, we are being Jesus to our families, to our friends, and to the world.

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How I Know He Knows My Name

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We learned the song from the “blue book”** as we called it. ‘Sang it for years with my sisters – many times on our way home from church on a Sunday evening.

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This book sold for $.50 in 1928 and was purchased on E-bay for $12.00

Years ago, my sister and cousins recorded a tape of lullabies, including this song. Listening to this song recently, I realized that this is where I learned that Jesus knows my name.

When you sing a song often enough, you begin to understand and believe the truth in the words you are singing. (That’s why it’s important that we are careful about what goes into the ears of our kids because in time it will sink into their impressionable minds and they will claim it as truth).

One of the blessings of learning songs that are based directly on the truth of Scripture is that we learn about God while we don’t even realize we’re learning. These many years later, I have that memory and the meaning of those words tucked into my heart.

Yes, Jesus knows my name.

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When someone knows – and remembers -our name, it means we are important to that person. It means that we matter. It means that what we do is significant to that person.

When God knows my name, it means that I matter to Him. It means He cares about me. It means that what I do and who I am is important to Him. In this vast and enormous universe filled with millions of people, I matter to Him because He knows my name.

I learned all that from this song.

The song asks questions that remind me of the questions God asked Job.  Do you know . . . ? Can you count . . .  ?

And, like Job, I realize I have no idea, but God does. No, I can’t begin to count the stars or the clouds, the birds or the fish, or the children, but He can. He already knows.

Most especially to me, He knows my name. He knows your name, too.

If you want scripture that verifies this, you can click here, or here, or here.

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“Do you know how many stars there are shining in the sky?”

This song doesn’t just ask questions. It answers those questions by giving us answers: “Who really knows, Who really hangs the stars and counts the clouds, Who really gives life to animals, birds, fish, and flowers.”

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“Do you know how many clouds every day go floating by?”

Who, especially, cares about children sleeping in their beds at night? Who knows the name of every child in the whole wide world, including mine?

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“God in Heaven each name can tell; knows us, too and loves us well.”

I am forever grateful that we learned about God through music and song even though we were completely oblivious that we were being taught an important truth. A foundation for my faith was being built, line by line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little. At that time, I wasn’t even aware.

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photo credit: Timothy Miller, age 14, Indiana

I’ve carried that truth with me everywhere I’ve gone. Sometimes it is hidden, but it always resurfaces on days when it seems nobody else cares about what happens to me. It is there, vibrating down in my being on days when I wonder if I am important to anybody. No matter what happens or what turmoil is stressing my life, I always know that Jesus knows my name.

I don’t have the answers to all of life’s conflicts and problems. There are so many things I don’t understand or even know, but I know the One Who does.

And that Someone knows my name!

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The Words:

Do You Know How Many Stars?

(1) Do you know how many stars there are shining in the sky?

Do you know how many clouds every day go floating by?

God, the Lord, their number knoweth, for each one His care He showeth,

Of the bright and boundless host, Of the bright and boundless host.

(2) Do you know how many birdies in the sunshine sing all day?

Do you know how many fishes in the sparkling water play?

God, the Lord, Who dwells in Heaven, name and life to each has given,

In His love they live and move, in His love they live and move.

(3) Do you know how many children go to little beds at night,

And without a care or sorrow wake again with morning light?

God in Heav’n each name can tell, knows us, too, and loves us well.

He’s our best and dearest Friend, He’s our best and dearest Friend.

The Music:

To hear this song, you can go to this link. It is from the recording made in December of 1996 by my sister Rachel Miller and my cousins, Joanna Miller and Ruth Miller Yoder. (A special thanks to my son Ben for taking the recording I sent and putting it on YouTube.)

The Book

**The “little blue book” was printed in 1928 and sold for 50 cents. According to Union Gospel Press, this song was printed in several different books and under different publishers. My copy was printed in 1928 by Gospel Trumpet Company through Union Gospel Press, Cleveland, Ohio. In my copy, there is no author listed for this song, and the music is listed as a “German song”. Further research tells me that the song is attributed to Johann Wilhelm Hey (1789-1854).

 

The Problem – and Pressure – With Wanting a King

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It doesn’t matter how old we are, we feel the pressure of peers. It happened to the Israelites and it happens to us. It’s our natural bent to look about us and see what others are doing. We watch not only what they are doing, but how they are doing it. Before we know it, we are following their lead and playing copy-cat instead of basing our decisions on what God is asking us to do.

It happened to the Israelites and it became their downfall. God had a plan to govern His people through prophets, judges, and priests, a theocracy. His plan did not include an earthly king.

This wasn’t good enough for the Israelite people. They looked around them at the other countries on all sides. You know what they noticed? They saw that those people had a KING. How could God ask them to be different from others? They allowed themselves to feel the pressure of their own families and tribes.

Those people got along just fine by having a king. Why couldn’t they have one, too? Obviously, they knew better than God – or so it would seem. Why else would they have insisted – no, demanded that God gives them a king?! They looked around and got caught up in the peer pressure snare.

Samuel’s sons had been appointed as judges, but they were failing badly. The people told Samuel, “Give us a  king like all the other nations!” You can read the entire story here.

Finally, God told Samuel to give them a king. He said, “Samuel, this isn’t about their rejection of you. No, they are rejecting Me.”

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It was more important to these people to be like those around them than to follow God’s order and His prescription for their government and tabernacle. It was more important that they not be different from others than that they learn to know His heart.

I’m shaking my head reading this scripture again, yet I know I’ve been guilty of the same. These people just wanted to be like all the other nations.

Sadly, we can find ourselves being just like the Children of Israel.

How many of us choose a church, a community, a calendar or a career by looking around at others instead of going to the Word of God to learn what He has to say about these decisions? How many of us find it so hard to be different that we sometimes don’t even tell people the real reason why we’re not going someplace or participating in an event? How many of us succumb to the pressure of our peers or our family?

How many of us make decisions about how to do things based on what others are doing instead of searching scripture? Instead of influencing those around us positively, we are allowing ourselves to be influenced by folks who have no heart for God. Instead of learning to know His heart, we follow others and assume that the path they’re taking is right and good. Sometimes we simply don’t want to be different or to have to stand against the tide.

Swimming upstream is hard and can be lonely at times. Peer Pressure is never fun.

I’ve often wondered what the nation of Israel would be like today if the people had never looked around at other nations, wanting to be like them. What would have happened if they had followed God’s original plan for their nation?

These people thought they had an enlightenment and an entitlement. They were wrong because they based their enlightenment on others instead of seeking the heart of God.

What decisions are we making today that will affect future generations? Are we looking around us to see how we can become like others, or are we investing our energy in learning to know the true heart of God? If other families or churches are “successful”, do we try to copy their way of doing things or do we measure their methods with the plumb line of God’s Word? Are we running after Him or are we running to keep up with the pressure we feel from those around us?

Are we praying, “Let me be like You” or are we praying,”Let me be like others because I don’t want to be different!”?

Are we inclined, because of pressure, to drop our guard and “expand our horizons” even though it takes us to places we should not go?

Are we committed to seeking His heart above all other pressures we face each day?

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