What once felt far off and theoretical now feels very real indeed. We are a little over a week away from brain surgery number two for my husband. After the first successful craniotomy back in February, I told myself that this second one would be smaller, easier. But now that it approaches it feels just as big and not near as easy. To make things more complex, the remnants from the first tumor are growing more aggressively than they'd anticipated, and while they hope radiation will stop/slow the growth of the remaining bits of the tumor, there is always the possibility of still more surgery down the road if need be. All of this news hit us last Monday, leaving us feeling pretty daunted, to be honest. As the days slide by and June gives way to July, I feel the uneasiness within myself begin to grow. My worry sensors light up. The "what-ifs" in my brain begin to fire. The uneasiness grows more still.
How easy it is to give in to worry. Especially for women, but for all of us. We hold it, we embrace it, we cuddle up with it. "I'm just a worrier," we say. Like it's cute, acceptable, somewhat admirable. It shows how much we care, it is just what moms and wives and people do, right? It is normal to worry. We worry because we care.
What is worry? When I type "worry" into in the search bar of my computer, I come up with the following definition:
1.give way to anxiety or unease; to allow one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles
1.a state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems
When we worry, we are giving way to our anxieties, our unease. We are dwelling on our troubles. We are abiding in our state of anxiety or uncertainty due to our problems, real or potential.
Just as I'm tempted to do with my husband. Are his brain tumors real? You bet. But do I want to "give way" to my anxieties over his surgery, his future health? Do I want to "abide" in that state of uncertainty and anxiety? No.
Worry is not a cute and cuddly habit. Worry is a byproduct of believing that we are in control rather than trusting that God is in control. We find that our control is not sufficient, which leads us to a state of anxiety, worry, and fear. Worry is exalting our problems over our God. It is fixing our eyes on our problems rather than fixing our eyes on our Deliverer, the One who is far greater and far more powerful than whatever those problems may be. It is allowing our minds to dwell on our troubles rather than to dwell on His Word, His promises, His Character. It is abiding in our anxiety rather than abiding in Christ. Bluntly put, worry is sin.
Why? Not because it makes us "bad, evil people." Sin is anything we think, say, or do that isn't what God intended for us. And why is worry sin? Why is worry what He does not intend for us? Because in addition to revealing the idolatry in our heart of making ourselves to be God rather than trusting Him to be God, at the end of the day worry hurts us. Worry cannot produce peace, it cannot produce healing or protection or life. Worry cannot save the one we love. Worry cannot keep our children or our spouse safe. Worry cannot offer security. Worry cannot create solutions. Worry does not bring freedom. When we give in to our worry, we become more afraid, we literally make our bodies sicker, we wrap ourselves tighter in bondage, we paralyze our family members because we are too afraid to let them go. We hurt ourselves, we hurt our loved ones, and we give up the abundant life and freedom that Jesus came to give us. Worry robs us of joy, peace, and life and locks us in a prison cell in which we willingly choose to abide.
As I felt myself worried about my husband and all that is to come in the next few weeks and months, I felt God tenderly remind me of this verse while I was driving down the road.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.
God lovingly reminded me that I have an alternative to worry. The alternative is that I can experience the of peace God. While I cannot change our current circumstances, I can change where I fix my thoughts and where I allow my mind to dwell. God's Word tells me that I have a different option than giving way to my troubles and thinking on them constantly. He tells me that I can take my fears, my anxieties, and my problems to God and trust them to Him, by prayer and petition and with thanksgiving. I can take them boldly before His throne thanks to Jesus, who has made a way for me to enter into His most Holy Presence with my prayers (Hebrews 10:19-22). I can list my every fear out before Him, I can lay them down and leave them there. (1 Peter 5:7). And even in the midst of laying out my worries, troubles, and fears before Him I can do so with thanksgiving, because I know that He is good, all that He does is good, He uses even what is intended for evil for good (Gen 50:20). And ultimately I know that no matter what the circumstances in my life are or will be, He loves me and will always be with me (Romans 8:38-39). Here, in the place of bringing it all to Jesus and surrendering it to Him, in place of anxiety, He gives peace. Instead of my mind dwelling continually on my problems, my mind and my heart can be guarded by Jesus.
I am reminded of still more good news within Scripture:
Colossians 3:1-4 reminds me that I don't have to set my mind on my troubles, but that I can set my mind and my heart on things above, on Christ, His unfailing love, the certainty of eternity we have been promised with Him, far surpassing the circumstances or troubles or problems on earth-
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
John 15:5 reminds me that I don't have to abide in anxiety, I can abide in Jesus-
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."
Isaiah 41:10 reminds me that I do not have to fear, for God is with me and will help me-
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 26:3 reminds me that when my mind is fixed on God I can have peace-
"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."
Romans 8:28 tells me that God is working all things together for good in my life-
"28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Psalm 119 reminds me that rather than focusing on my problems, I can think on and meditate on God's Word. Here are a few highlights from this long Psalm, reminding me that His Word leads me, His Word revives me, brings me freedom and comfort, brings me joy-
9How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to Your word.
10With all my heart I have sought You;
do not let me stray from Your commandments.
11I have hidden Your word in my heart
that I might not sin against You.
14I rejoice in the way of Your testimonies
as much as in all riches.
15I will meditate on Your precepts
and regard Your ways.
16I will delight in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.
30I have chosen the way of truth;
I have set Your ordinances before me. 35Direct me in the path of Your commandments,
for there I find delight.
37Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
revive me with Your word.
44I will always obey Your law,
forever and ever.
45And I will walk in freedom,
for I have sought Your precepts.
50This is my comfort in affliction,
that Your promise has given me life.
68You are good, and You do what is good;
teach me Your statutes.
Matthew 28:20b reminds me that Jesus has promised to always be with me-
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
1 Peter 5:7 reminds me to bring my fears to Him because He loves me-
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
Romans 8:35-39 reminds me that nothing can separate me from Jesus' love-
“For Your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Phil 4:8-9 reminds me of the kind of things to think on, rather than dwelling on my problems-
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I could go on and on with the good news and hope that is so abundant in God's Word to us, the Bible.
We have a choice. We can dwell on our problems, we can be bound in a state of anxiety and fear, we can forsake our freedom for worry. Or we can trust in the power, the name, the goodness of our God. We can meditate on our problems, or we can meditate on His Word that brings freedom, life, joy, hope, truth. We can think on what could be, or we can think on what is true with God and allow God to fill us with His peace and His presence.
And what do we know to be true? What do I know to be true? That regardless of the news we received on Monday that the tumors continue to grow and more surgery awaits us, God has not changed. He still is who He is. He is the Sovereign King of the Universe. He is the One alone whose Name is Great and whose heart is kind. He is the One who knows me and loves me enough that He died for me, to take my sins and offer me His righteousness- eternal life forever with Him just by believing and trusting in Jesus to be my Savior. He is the One that death could not hold down, the One who rose from the grave, breaking the chains of sin and death for all who believe in Him. He is the One who knows me so intimately that He knows my every thought, my every move, and every hair on my head. He is the One who says He has a good plan for my life. He is the One who wipes away every tear from every eye and comforts us in our suffering. He is the One who took every pain upon Himself, healing us by the stripes He bore for us. He is the One who offers to carry every burden. He is the One who offers us life, abundant life in His Name. He gives us peace in place of our anxieties when we bring them to Him. He is our protector and deliverer, the One who delivers us from every distress. He is the One who will always be with us, always. And He is the One who is faithful in His promises, faithful in His unchanging character. He is grace and truth, He is resurrection and life, He is sacrificial unfailing love. He is the One who loved perfectly so that I need not fear, promising me that so great is that love that nothing can ever separate it from me or me from it. We are secure and safe in Him, knowing that He is the one who is writing our story, and He has promised that the story is good.
This is where worry is destroyed and where the peace of God that surpasses all understanding is found. A friend told me the other day that she heard worry defined as "imagining the future without God." But the truth is that for the One who believes and trusts in Jesus, there is no future without Him. Maybe you don't know Jesus and the future does seem scary. You can pray a simple prayer, asking Him to help you, to show you who He is, tell Him that you don't want to go through life without Him but you want to trust Him and follow Him, have Him be your Savior, allow Him to be in control and God over your life. It is not about magic words or a magic prayer, but about calling out to Jesus. He is a God of relationship, and He desires to have a relationship with you.
Where will I fix my eyes, my heart, my mind? I will fix it on Jesus, for there is none like Him. I needed to sit down and be reminded of this in our current season, maybe someone out there does too. As we bring it all to Jesus, may we experience His peace as we abide in His Presence. May we find the courage to face our troubles as we fix our eyes on the one who has victory over every foe. May we experience the freedom and abundant life that only Christ can give as we put our faith and hope in Him.