Wasteful nighttime worry

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Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Proverbs 19:21 ESV

The Lord had scheduled this verse in my reading this morning, for it hit home. 

I had lain in bed after ‘pee o’clock’ just thinking about various hypothetical scenarios.  You’d probably call it ‘worrying yourself sleepless!’ What kind of situations?

There’s my mother-in-law who grows weaker by the week.  She lives alone, but in a retirement community, about 2000 miles away from us. I foresee us making more frequent trips out to see and encourage her.

Another issue I spent time ‘planning for’ had to do with packing for an upcoming trip.  Then my worrying bordered on the ridiculous. Of all things, I started wondering just what I would do with my life if Mike died before me.  Yes, I know, all in the middle of the night.

I paid a price for giving into these anxiety projections – less sleep!

But it wasn’t a waste, for God redeemed it this morning by pointing out his truth, delivered by Solomon’s proverb.

How do those words help?  I’m choosing to draw a distinction between planning and preparing. Of the three topics that occupied my awake time, only one, Friday’s upcoming trip, involved an actual situation written on my calendar.  But as I had already written down some prep details during daylight hours, just what was the point in thinking about it at night?

But the other two scenarios, how Mom’s decline will play out and life as widow?????  I have NO business giving attention to them.  What prompted the latter worry, it can only have been Satan.  And about Mom, I was pondering her situation and our involvement only because she had been depressed that day when I zoomed with her.

Listening to her lamentations had led me to suggest two actions she could take the next day.  Other than that, for the time being, I can’t control her or supervise her to see that she actually puts into practice what I think will help her. I have to leave her in God’s hands and keep praying.

My imaginations, those speculative plans certainly won’t change God’s purposes.

Do you remember those ‘choose your own adventure’ books?  Here’s my application of that kind of authoring.  No matter how many possible ‘choose- your-own eventuality’ exist, until Mom’s story on Earth 1.0 ends, I know that God ‘has this all his hands’.  Furthermore, having experienced God’s creative solutions numerous times, I will not be surprised if how he has written the story is in a way I would never have imagined.

So, what’s the whole point in telling you all this?  Just that, in case you’re like me and occasionally fall prey to that temptation to lie awake worrying, maybe seeing the silliness in my preoccupations might help you see more clearly your own unholy imaginings. 

Let’s pray rather that we trust the Holy Spirit to give us supernatural power to resist the suggestion to start imagining an ending. God has got this!

What are you afraid of?

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You’ve probably heard about ‘disordered loves’.  That’s when you love something more than God.

If I’m honest, I struggle with THAT sin not only every day but also multiple times in a day.

What do I love more than God?  Theologically, nothing!  But functionally, I can rattle off probably 10, without pause:

  • my time
  • my comfort
  • my routine
  • speaking French
  • my ability to cook well
  • my appearance (being fit for my age)
  • READING
  • writing
  • sleep
  • long stretches with no obligations

And I haven’t even mentioned people I love!

Yes, I am aware that the Holy Spirit constantly is at work in this entire area of my life.  It’s called pruning, or sanctification, or suffering.

But the other day, something caused me to think about ‘disordered fears’.  I haven’t spotted that expression before, but books have been written about the disproportionate fear of man over the fear of God.  Or how we can become immobilized through fear of failure.

There are a hundred things to fear. And Christians and unbelievers alike battle fear.  Winston Churchill understood the evil of fear during wartime.

Here’s what prompted me to think about how our fears might be out of whack.

First I saw God’s emphasis on loving HIM above everything else.  This lesson has recently been reinforced as Mike and I journey once again through the Bible in a year. Today we finished the book of Joshua.  This successor to Moses is about to ‘be gathered to his fathers’ and he passes on his final advice and admonitions to the congregation of Israel at Shiloh.  He spends a good deal of time recounting God’s faithfulness to the Hebrew tribes, beginning with Abraham and mentioning this fact:

“Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23:14 (NIV)

BASED on what God has done for them, Joshua explains their responsibility to LOVE God.  It’s a command.  If it’s a command, it must not be a feeling.  Because ephemeral feelings come and go.  Loving God turns out to be an action that looks like this:

  • serving God wholeheartedly
  • clinging to God
  • preferring the one true God to other Gods
  • obeying God
  • worshipping and sacrificing to this God only

But how did I connect this directive to love God to what we are to fear?  Well, you can’t read much of the Old Testament without picking up the importance of ‘fearing God’.  Proverbs 19:23 is just one of many verses: “The fear of the LORD leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”

Earlier in the week, I was wallowing in some non-God fears.   Kind of like Pilgrim mucking around in the Slough of Despond.  But thanks be to the Holy Spirit!  He brought me up short about the sin of fear.

I saw that these temporal fears (I’m gaining weight, some work-related circumstances might never get better, what if………….happens?) were occupying my thoughts and causing me to be despondent.  That was a slap in the face to God.  God brought me up short about my unbelief in God’s good (*good as HE calls good, that is whatever facilitates my eventual conformity to Jesus) plan for my life.  That realization led me to confess that I was fearing FIRST and FOREMOST something other than God.

I now see that if I shift my thoughts and energy to fearing, to pleasing, to caring about God’s reputation, then maybe my other fears will fall ‘into’ place and to their correct size. God doesn’t want us to deny our fear; He invites honesty.  BUT He is at work to place them in perspective.  Loving God leads to life.  Fearing God leads to life.  Loving AND fearing something over God leads to death.

It’s a new thought for me.  What about you?  Do you struggle more with disordered loves or disordered fears?  OR…..are they one and the same, two sides of the same sin?

 

 

 

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