Anxiety, Thankfulness and Hope

Anxiety occurs as a hangover of bad habits established when we are trusting in things – Dallas Willard.

What are you anxious about today?  Our anxiety shows us where are trust lies.  Lately, I have been anxious because we are entering a new phase of homeschooling..HIGHSCHOOL! I mean..ahem ‘highschool.’  God has shown us the next step over and over and over in parenting, so certainly He can continue to direct our steps through highschool.  Unless highschool years are a little above His ability?  Isn’t that kind of what I’m saying when I don’t trust Him with this?  The God Who made all people and Heaven and Earth does not have the ability to help us with highschool decisions or potential bumps in the road?  He has more than proven Himself again and again to us in all kinds of ways and in MUCH bigger things and yet I struggle with handing this over.  Are any of you like that?

I remember when we had some major financial trouble in the early years of John’s business.  Those days were initially filled with anxiety and fear for both of us.  Where we used to live, our house was surrounded by farms and I looked out the window one day deeply discouraged, concerned and lost in thought.  The Lord spoke to my heart that He owned the cattle on a thousand hills and so certainly He could take care of our small financial situation.  Now understand, this wasn’t a ‘small’ situation, but next to the big God we serve it looked pretty small.  I had become nearsighted and focused on our problem instead of God.  Eventually, God led us out of this time, but I had much more peace in the midst of it when I would focus on Him.  Worrying didn’t change our situation one little bit. Hmm..sounds kind of like Matthew 6:27 where it says, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life.” Nope, we can’t, but we sure can make it unenjoyable and lose sight of what’s important!  I often had to make a decision to trust in God rather than our circumstances or ability to get out of the situation.  Focusing on God and how great He was enabled me to be at peace, but focusing on the problem caused a lot of strain.  When we focus on things rather than God, we make those big and God small in our lives.  We have walked through all kinds of things from major health issues, financial issues, relationship issues, church issues, parenting issues and all kinds of other things life throws at us and all of you.  Focusing on God has always been the cure for the anxiety that these things always produce.  Sometimes we have chosen God and sometimes we have chosen anxiety.  We chose anxiety when we forget.

When we forget Who we’re trusting in, anxiety is sure to be ours.  Just in case it is coming across that if we are thankful and believe how big God is, all of our situations will turn out right, I want to be clear that that is not what I’m saying.  You don’t have to be a scholar to realize that life often throws curveballs and some of those hit us so hard and are so painful that they almost take us out.  It may be a suicide in the family, an untimely death, an unexpected disease, an extremely wayward child, a broken marriage or any number of heartaches that we experience – some of them life altering.  How do we find God and hope in Him then?  How can we be thankful and walk in peace in the midst of deep brokeness or disappointment?  Peace even in the middle of those life changing, heart crushing circumstances?

For me, we had a package of many things in a few short years where we felt that our head was barely above the waters of disappointment and despair.  Sometimes I’m pretty sure my head was well below the water and I was drowning.  The package consisted of the financial situation I already talked about, our stillborn daughter Jordan, John’s diagnosis of a bad form of Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a fledgling business that required a lot of hours, four children under seven, a marriage groaning under the strain of all of these and hormone issues that left me frustrated, tired and not feeling well.  Here’s the thing, I can look back at that time and say with confidence that God kept us and that His arms were strong enough through all of that.  I forgot – a lot.  Actually, I forgot a whole lot, but Psalm 59:1 says that God’s hand is not so short that it cannot save.  As you can see, some of these were NOT small or fixable circumstances, but even in the midst of these types of things we learn things about God.  We learn He’s bigger than we thought, stronger than we thought and nearer than we thought.

You see, He knows where we’re at. When John called after what was supposed to be a simple doctor’s appointment and he said, “I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that I’m in the best place for a liver transplant, but the bad news is I may need one and by the way, I have an incurable genetic disorder.”  My mind tried to process the ‘good news’.  You see, 30 seconds before the phone call it did not occur to me that it mattered if we were ‘in a good place for a liver transplant.’  We had a six week waiting period between the diagnosis and the testing to see how far everything had progressed.  It was scary.  I cried a lot.  I imagined life without John.  I imagined life with John unwell.  I prayed for healing.  I hoped for healing.  During the whole six weeks, God kept asking me, “Am I enough?”  I said, “NO! You AND John, but not just You.”  I would wake up in the night hearing this and His voice would even interrupt my thoughts. I went from my first response to “You’re not, but I want you to be,” and eventually to “Yes, I see that You will be enough for me no matter what life holds.”  This was a PROCESS of letting go.  God is patient and gently leads us in this.  He doesn’t stand there yelling, “What’s wrong with you? I want the right answer!”  He wants a heart answer and He knows how to gently lead us and reveal His heart to us so that we can trust Him with the new ‘hard’.  He will always be enough. He’s enough for the widow or widower and their brokenhearted children, He’s enough for the parents grieving for their child, He’s enough for the woman with aching empty arms, He’s enough for lost businesses, hurting marriages, abused children, abused adults, broken hearts and broken bodies. I know it sounds trite, but He brought me into a place where my heart was at peace despite the unknown.  Actually, He freed me through all of this.  I used to be paralyzed with fear that something would happen to John and do you know what?  Through that six week process, He took away the fear.  Previously my trust had been in John and the happy marriage we have, but God put my trust back where it should be.  On HIM!  He will always be there. None of us are promised tomorrow, but God says that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us.  I have not dealt with that fear anymore.  Is John healed?  No.  Is he doing well? Yes!  The doctors are always astounded at his health despite his diagnosis.  In fact, they say IF he ever needs a liver transplant he’s in a good place. Do I know the future? No and that can get me if I let it, but I can’t linger there.  If I stop on that I begin to get anxious because I picture our life without the strong arms of God wrapped around us, but if I remember all of the times He has shown He is active in our lives, the anxiety leaves.

We forget how big God is because we forget to be thankful.  Thankfulness is remembering what God has done in the past and it produces hope for the future.  When we begin to remember His goodness and His faithfulness, we are refocusing our trust and putting our hope in Him.  Truthfully, if we really understood His role in our lives and the greatness of Who He is as well as His heart towards us, we wouldn’t fear or become anxious about anything.  Unfortunately, we do forget.  Sometimes we have never seen.  It is crucial that we come to know how much He loves us and if we can’t see that, ask Him to help us to see clearly.  Thankfulness refocuses our hearts on Who He is.

We have a thankfulness jar at our house because I want our family to have a personal track record of God’s movement in our lives.  We write on a rock every time God answers a prayer or does something on our behalf and place it in a jar.  When we hit a season or a decision where it is hard to focus on God instead of the situation, we can pull the rocks out and remember His faithfulness and have hope of His faithfulness for the situation at hand.  This comes from Joshua 4:6 when God had miraculously split the Jordan like He had split the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through on dry ground with the Ark of the Covenant (symbolic of God’s Presence) before them.  God told them to set up stones of remembrance in that place.  This is the point of the story where this verse picks up.  Josuah 4:6 In the future when your children ask you, “What do these stones mean?” tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the convenant of hte Lord.  When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  these stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.  Over and over God instructs the Israelites to remember the things He had done and to tell them to their children.  Thankfulnes to God is a cure for anxiety because it focuses our hearts on the faithfulness of God.  Thankfulness produces hope and anxiety produces hopelessness.  If there is a place in our lives where hopelessness and anxiety rules, we need to look at if we have forgotten thankfulness.  We need to refocus on how big God is and that He is active in each of our lives whether we feel like it or not or whether we know it or not.

Let’s look at what’s going on in our hearts.  Is there anxiety and or hopelessness?  Wherever there is anxiety or hopelessness, we can know that our trust is in the wrong place.  Let’s remember the things He has done and focus on Who He is.  He says that those who hope in HIM will never be disappointed in Isaiah 49:23  Life or circumstances will be disappointing, but when we seek God, we will never find less than what we were looking for.  We need to hope in HIM and sometimes we can’t see Him clearly, but He sees us and knows where we’re at.  He promises that if we seek Him we will find Him.  Sometimes we don’t even know how to put our hope in God and we can even say that to Him.  He’s not confused by us and is more than able to teach us to hope in Him.  If He created us, He certainly knows how to help us see Him clearly.

Isaiah 40:31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.

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