Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thankful Thursday - On Worry and Gratitude

Ask the average person what they think the Bible is about and I would guess that most people would either say that they have no idea what the Bible is all about or they would say that they think the Bible is a book full of statements and chapters that begin and end with "Thou shalt not."

Truthfully, there are many times when I think the same thing - on both counts.
There are parts of the Scriptures that I cannot decipher, and there are other sections, many sections that begin and end with "Thou shalt not..." And "Do not..."

But that's not always a bad thing. For example, one of the most repeated "Do not..." statements in the Bible is this: "Do not be afraid." Angels appear to people and say, "Do not be afraid." After receiving CPR from said angel, many of those who were told to not be afraid must have been thinking, "That's easy for you to say, Angel dude. You knew you were coming to see me. I had no idea. How on earth am I supposed to not be afraid?"

Do not be afraid in the flood or in the fire - God says in Isaiah - because I am with you.
Do not be afraid - Jesus says to the disciples as he approaches their boat, walking on the water in the midst of a terrible storm - because it's me.
Do not be afraid - the angel Gabriel said to Mary - just before he informed her that she was going to give birth to the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Huge news. Huge life changing news. And a command - Do not be afraid.

Another Biblical mandate is this: Do not worry.
Don't worry about what you will eat or drink or wear.
Don't worry about tomorrow.
Don't worry about anything.

That last one is the one that has been on my mind a lot today.
Here's the verse in its entirety and also the one that follows - Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Easy peasy. Don't worry about anything. Tell God everything. Give thanks in everything. Understand that God's peace is beyond your understanding. Trust that God's peace will guard your hearts and minds. Like I said - easy peasy. Just kidding... this is one of the hardest things in life - this "not worrying" and "not being afraid" thing.

I remember reading someplace that worrying is praying for what you don't want.
But it makes sense - for me, prayer is keeping people and situations in mind, giving them to God over and over again, pleading for peace and healing and restoration and reconciliation.
Worry follows a similar pattern - keeping people and situations in mind, giving them to nobody but my own fear-filled and fear-driven self.

So I get it - I understand why fear and worry don't help anybody.
I understand why fear and worry paralyze me sometimes.
I understand why the Bible commands us not to fear.
But still I worry. Still I struggle with fear.
I admit it - I don't do this Christian walk thing, this life thing, particularly well.

So today, I'm going to tie my fears and worries to gratitude.
I am going to share with you the three things I worry about most.
And I am going to attempt to find reasons to be grateful for those fears and worries.

1. I worry about money.

What if we don't have enough to pay our bills? What if we have an unexpected expense? What if we aren't saving enough for the completion of the kids' college education? What if we aren't saving enough for retirement? What if one of the cars breaks down? What if there's another major medical expense?

Embedded within each of those questions, each of those worries, are reasons to be grateful. Our children are both college students. We have cars that run. We have good enough health that we are not currently in a major medical challenge. We have hope that at some point my husband won't have to work full time to provide for us. We have hope that someday we will be able to travel more, to sit and sip cool drinks on a screened in porch. We have money to worry about. We have savings to add to. My husband is gainfully employed, so much so that for more than twenty years, I was able to stay at home and be a full time, at home, homeschooling mother. And now I am a student again, reading, writing, learning, preparing to serve God and serve people. I am enormously grateful.

Considering how many people have lost their jobs and remain unemployed for years, how many people have lost their homes, how many have never had homes, how many live with homelessness and joblessess, I am challenged to stop my complaining and release my worry and fear. I am challenged to be grateful every day for the ease and abundance I enjoy.

2. I am afraid that something is going to happen to our house, our cars, our computers, our stuff.

In our twenty-four and a half years of marriage, we have lived in four different places: an apartment, a townhouse, and two single-family houses. In those four different settings we have had to do a lot of house repairs. We have laid out a lot of money to keep the roof over our heads and the floors under our feet.

Mold. Mildew. Ants. Cracked bricks. Cracked hardwood. Cracked foundation. Overflowing gutters. Windows that need to be replaced. A driveway in need of repair. Carpeting in need of replacement. A doorknob that no longer works properly. A storm door that no longer closes completely. Dampness. Kitchen cabinets in need of replacement. Painting to be done. Appliances in need of repair or replacement. Leaking pipes. New septic tank. Swimming pool repair. Roof replaced. Wallpaper taken down. Wallpaper put up. Computers infected, disinfected, dead, and replaced. Phones broken. One phone used underwater in a waterproof case that wasn't properly closed.

Here's the thing - that whole long list of work that has been done is also a long list of blessings. We have lived in four amazing homes, places to which we always returned with joy and gratitude. Places where we welcomed friends and families for meals, for parties, for celebrations, for sleepovers, for Bible studies, for baby showers, for bridal showers, and just to hang out together to talk. We have never had a house fire. We have never had our home broken into. We have never had a significant infestation of any kind. We have always had kind, attentive, generous, caring neighbors. They have brought meals when we are sick. They have taken care of our dog when we are away. They have invited us over for parties. Their children have played with our children.

I said I am afraid that something might happen to our house and our stuff. Well, stuff happens all the time. Things break. Things malfunction. Things fall. I am grateful that each one of those things serves as a reminder of the countless things that have been mine to enjoy, mine to clean, mine to repair, mine to replace.
Mine. Ours. God's.
Grateful, grateful, grateful.

3. And I worry and am afraid, most of all, that something will happen to my family, my friends, and other people I love.

Stuff has happened to my family, my friends, and everyone I love. Stuff does happen. Stuff will always happen. Kanswer. Diabetes. Depression. Job loss. Divorce. The loss of a parent. The loss of a child. The loss of a pet. Finding a job after many years of unemployment - and facing the challenge of maintaining relationships and a home that had been the focus of attention during those years at home. Getting pregnant within months of completing kanswer treatment - wondering about the possibility of a return of the kanswer due to elevated estrogen levels during pregnancy and beyond.

Stuff happens. Difficult stuff. Painful stuff. Frightening stuff.
Good stuff too. Encouraging stuff. Love stuff. Friendship stuff.
Lunch after too long without any time together.
Writing together with another journaling soul.
Creative activities together.
Meeting for tea and talking.
Texting someone I don't get to see as often as I'd like.
Being asked to teach, to preach, to drop by.

I am enormously grateful that even though "stuff happens" to me and to everyone I know, love remains. Friends remain. Hope remains. Joy remains. And that's not all - love grows, hope grows, joy grows, friendships grow.

Depending on the translation of the Bible you read, it is possible to find more than three hundred places where we are told, "Do not be afraid" and "Do not worry." I disobey both of those admonitions every day. But I am grateful for the people, the places, the stories, the faces, the relationships, and the many adventures that prompt me to worry and be afraid. If I weren't so profoundly blessed, I wouldn't have as much to worry about or be afraid to lose.

I hope and pray that when the rising waters of fear threaten to drown me,
when the fire of worry threatens to consume me,
that is the moment when I need to pull out my journal and make a gratitude list.
That is the moment when I need to get on my knees and give thanks to God for every person and every situation and every meal and every trip and everything I have seen and known and experienced.

Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.

1 comment:

chainthree said...

This post reminds me of a very difficult year that I had when I was afraid I would lose my business or my house or both! Gratitude is the only antidote to worry that I've found. As my husband says, "You can't simply not do something; you have to do something else instead." --Jennifer