We are officially in the Christmas season! But first, how was your Thanksgiving? Did your day go just as you pictured? Mine didn’t! The night before I thought everything was running according to schedule, until Thanksgiving morning when I awoke to the realization that I had messed up, fallen short, and was let down (by myself!). I had forgotten to place three freshly made side dishes into the refrigerator the night before. I would have to remake them all that morning, losing time to make other dishes on my list. The house was a disaster. Our efforts to squeeze in a family Christmas picture that morning didn’t yield the desired outcome. A family member was sick and wouldn’t be able to join in the day’s celebration. As set back and disappointment piled one on top of another this Thanksgiving morning and anxious thoughts mounted, I could have either given into IT or given it over to GOD. Years ago, I would have given in and let disappointment, frustration, and anxiety dominate my day. In doing so, I probably would have ruined a few of my loved ones’ day as well! Now I know to give it over to God. He can handle my shortcomings and disappointments. He can give me whole peace in the midst of my broken plans.
As I went about my day, choosing to celebrate His goodness (true celebration is focusing on Him, after all, and not the perfect execution of my plans!) and being thankful to Him (what a blessing it is to choose gratitude in the face of disappointment), He was magnified and my disappointment was minimized. I quickly realized this would not be the last time I would experience thoughts of disappointment, worry, or anxiety this holiday season and that I needed to be mindful of my thinking: do I have a mind-full of His Word and truth? What am I choosing to think about and how am I choosing to respond to my anxious thoughts?
What are we choosing to think upon?
The Bible has much to say when it comes to our thought life. Whether it’s disappointments, frustrations, worries, or anxieties, God’s Word holds the answer. The Psalmist declared, “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul” (Psalm 94:19). One commentator noted that it is the perplexing and distressing thoughts that are being spoken of here, much like the branches of a tree, thick and entwined. Aren’t our thoughts like that? As one thought branches out, it wraps into another thought, and before we know it we have thick, entwined, and distressing thoughts, which lead to great anxiety. Yet the Psalmist knew where to turn for comfort, and likewise when we turn to the Lord and apply His Word, we can learn to allow HIS thoughts to settle OUR thoughts. As we renew our minds (Romans 12:2) with the Word of God, replacing our anxious thoughts with His truth, we are able to set our minds “on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2) more and more. In so doing, we can learn and remind ourselves of the very truth of God’s Word. For example: in our failures, His grace is enough; in our weakness, He is made strong; when our plans fail, His do not; when people let us down, He won’t; when we are in need, He will provide; when it looks impossible, all things are possible with Him. We can choose to think upon the truth, thus being set free of the worries, anxieties, frustrations, and disappointments that would otherwise rule over us.
How are we choosing to respond to thoughts of worry, anxiety, and disappointment?
Just as we can choose what we think about, we can also choose what to do with anxious thoughts when they try to penetrate our minds. Whether it is minor disappointments such as I experienced on Thanksgiving, or worries and anxieties that take our breath away, the Lord invites us to come to Him and to give those thoughts over to Him. We have often heard Karen quote Martin Luther by saying, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” In other words, anxious thoughts will come to our mind, but 1) will we allow them to remain and 2) what kind of affect will we allow them to have?
1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us. One translation states it this way: give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. As His children, what a blessing it is to be able to give our cares, worries, and anxieties to Him, knowing that He cares for us. In fact, it is because of His care for us that in Matthew 6 He urges us not to worry. Jesus taught His followers not to worry about things such as what they would eat or what they would wear because He knew what they needed ahead of time. He also pointed to the fact that they were more valuable than the birds of the air which He took care of, so how much more would He take care of them. Our confidence in giving our anxious and worrisome thoughts (our cares) to Him is tied to our confidence in His care for us. May our hearts and minds truly grasp the depth of His care, the heights of His love, and the span of His ability to care for each of us! A.W. Tozer stated, “Sometimes when we get overwhelmed we forget how big God is.” We are also quick to forget how caring He is.
As cares and thoughts of worry, anxiety, frustration, and disappointment enter our mind, we can give it to Him through prayer, allowing us to trust Him and rest in His care. As Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us in one translation: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” What can we do instead of worry? Pray. How can we cast our cares onto the Lord? By turning our worries into prayers. We are told to not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God. As we do, we experience His peace.
Corrie ten Boom said, “The tree on the mountain takes whatever the weather brings. If it has any choice at all, it is in putting down roots as deeply as possible.” There are countless reasons we are faced with anxiety and worry on any given day, but may we be women who put our roots down as deeply as possible into God’s Word and His love while simultaneously reaching high to the throne of grace through prayer, knowing that He cares for us.
With love in Christ,
(on behalf of the Women’s Ministry)