Sometimes life is just flippin’ hard isn’t it?
I’ve been in my new work role since December. It involves a lot more responsibility. This includes managing staff, working with politicians and overall a greater volume of work. In general terms I am stretched but thriving but when you are at capacity and then someone throws you a curve ball…let’s just say things got challenging a few weeks back!
So it was that I rocked up to church a couple of Sundays ago and the Vicar chose to speak about worry. It’s an example that my church is there to make real life work better not to provide a brief bit of religious escapism from it. At the end there was an opportunity for someone to pray with you and I was at the front of the queue.
The whole thing beautifully encapsulated what it means to be a Christian. I went to be with my faith community because I know I need that to make sense of life. There I got to hear about the God who is much better than me about knowing how to manage live. Not only did I hear truth and practical insight but in prayer I received the peace and strength to go and do Monday morning well.
The week that followed was still challenging but I knew I was different within it. As Philippians 4 in the Message puts it: ‘It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life’
Along the way a whole bunch of things struck me about worry, which I’m going to put out there. If you want to grapple with them I highly recommend Mick Woodhead’s worry message and the following week’s message from Mark Russell about asking God for what you need (links to both at the end). Beyond that, as always, my message is get into community so you don’t face this stuff alone:
- Worry isn’t good for you
Call me Mr Obvious but the point here is that if worry is bad then we need to tackle it not dance to its tune. In reality worry often becomes the norm. Worry drains our energy, it undermines our relationships. Worry is like walking in thick fog – our vision is clouded, we cannot step forward with confidence. A worry driven life is not a good life.
- Worry shows up our shortcomings
Worry comes out of a mind-set that we need to fix life. When we can’t we worry. Our looming inability haunts us. ‘What if’s’ begin to shriek.
We naturally pick one of two options. The first is to redouble efforts to fix life, to bulldoze through. Whilst sometimes necessary this is exhausting and we are prone to burn out.
The second is to give up, to conclude that the thing in unfixable and to lapse into self-pity.
- Worry shows we need help
In the self-pity mode we often sit in our misery waiting for someone to come and rescue us. The irony for those of us who are Christians is we forget that he’s already been. As Mark’s message highlights we need to turn to God with honest prayers because whatever it is we’re struggling with is exactly what he’s bothered about because more than anything he’s bothered about us.
Recently my wife Louise passed me a book she’d got hold of called ‘Hit the ground kneeling’ by Stephen Cottrell. His message is an antidote to the breathless ‘hit the ground running’ mantra, which often leads to frantic, poorly thought approaches in the workplace.
In the book he tells a story of being on a scout camp as a young man. A fellow scout had fallen out of a tree and they’d called a leader for urgent assistance. The leader strode onto the scene, walking not running. The boys wondered why. He later explained that it gave him time to think and meant that he was not out of breath if he needed to give CPR. Which he did and the boy was saved.
It’s a powerful example. We can charge about under our own stream, using the energy we have badly and ending exhausted. Or we can choose day by day, issue by issue to come to the God who made it all, hear his voice and receive his daily bread – not just food but peace, wisdom and strength to see us through.
Last thought – worrying is not a sign of failure and not worrying is not another thing to add to the ‘to do’ list. Worrying is an inevitable product of our human nature and the culture we live in but it doesn’t have to be a way of life.
There is a different life available where we live dependent on God’s resources and not just our own. To be a follower of Jesus means we learn to operate out of God more so that while worry may be a feature of life it’s not something we are gripped by. We invite God to become greater and for us to be less (John 3:30). And we are not diminished by this. We are set free.