This morning, the wind was knocked out of me! Not literally, but it felt like it. I found an unread email sent to me a few weeks ago with a comment regarding my sermon on worry from Matthew 6:19-34. It read:
When my heart was hardened against God, it was believers at peace despite real troubles that began to crack the shell of my heart and make me say, “This is real, God is real.” And when my mother’s heart was hardened, it was believers proclaiming Christ but consumed with worry that made her say, “Their God is not real, they have no confidence in Him.” We are always witnessing, for better or worse.
The outcomes for others of how we handle worry can be hopeful or sobering!
For whatever reason, this fall, I’ve had several short seasons during which worry has crept into my heart. They have revealed chinks in my faith, places where I have felt alone, exposed, unprotected, and vulnerable to failure. Why would I feel this way? Looking at the circumstances of my life, things are good, solid, seemingly secure.
In these seasons, worry didn’t just walk in full force. Worry crept in one little “what if” thought at a time. These “what if” thoughts are less threatening and easier to entertain when they are welcomed one at a time. They present themselves in a much less threatening manner. However, when one is entertained for any length of time, the word gets out! Soon, I’m entertaining an entire squad of “what if” thoughts, and they can overtake my mind and my heart. It’s as if I have no confidence in my Father. It’s as if He isn’t real. The sad thing is, these thoughts take over without needing to fire a single shot. Game over! I’m a prisoner in the penitentiary of worry and fear. Thoughts of shame are like prison guards shouting at me, “I’m not enough!” “I’m a failure!” “I’ll never succeed!” “Don’t let anyone know!” Do these sound familiar? Are there any you might add?
“What if” thoughts are dangerous! They’re like ticks. When there is only one or two, they’re a nuisance — bothersome, but simple to deal with. But when there are a lot of them, they will suck a lot of blood and transmit a lot of fear. They can take us down some very dark rabbit holes.
How do we deal with “what if” thoughts? For myself, I must deal with them one at a time as they enter my mind. I lean into the reality that I have a Father who cares deeply for my well-being. He reminds me that I am not an orphan responsible to conquer life on my own. But I don’t lean into my Father alone. I invite others to share this journey with me. People walking with Jesus give me courage! Exposing and praying through worry with others — and the shame that often accompanies it — is freeing. While worry and fear will always be a part of the rhythm of our lives through various seasons of our lives, we must battle together.