I know I'm a day late in posting. As a friend of mine says, "Sometimes life is just life."
I've had a case of the "What if's" lately. One year ago, I had surgery to fix a couple of things that were wrong with my foot and causing me much pain. Not long after recuperation, I realized that something different was wrong with my foot. Reassured that time and some cortisone shots would do the trick, I kept on. Many months and additional opinions later, I was told that I had a rare post-operative nerve problem. I was given my options...selected a very painful, but potentially successful, course of action...waited...and now the pain is worse than ever.
What if? I ask myself, the pain never gets better? What if this is as good as it's going to get? What if I'm never able to walk without pain again. What if?
Maybe you have some "what if's"? What if my marriage can't be saved? What if the kids don't stop bullying my child at school? What if he/she won't stop drinking, doing drugs, (fill in the blank)? What if my husband can't find another job? What if?
The words, What if?, are an invitation to worry.
When I ask the question, What if?, I have initiated the worry cycle. My humanness combined with the enemy whispering in my ear, most often takes me to the worst case scenario. I'm not sure why, but it just happens that way.
God does not want us to live in worst case scenarios.
God doesn't...but the enemy sure does. Why? Because if he can get us caught up in our worrying, then we are rendered ineffective in building God's kingdom. The enemy wants us all on the disabled list.
That is why Paul exhorts the Philippians to pray when worry and anxiety arise.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything 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." (Philippians 4:6-7)
So many times I've read these verses, but yet new meaning keeps coming out of them. I believe that anxiety and prayer are two great opposing forces in the Christian experience. I also believe that thanksgiving is the antidote to worry.
God does not promise that, if I pray, all my problems will disappear. What He does promise is, that if I cast my anxiety on Him, He will take my burdens and put in their place a peace and tranquility that transcends all understanding. God always answers prayer. It may not be with the answer that we want, but He will indeed answer.
Often the circumstances may not change, but we will be changed in the circumstances.
I've also begun to take a new look at what it means to pray with thanksgiving. I suppose I've generally taken the approach that I present my petitions and requests before God and then when He answers my prayer (in the way He chooses), I thank Him.
What if, instead, I thank Him in advance for the way He is going to answer my prayer. What if the thanking comes before the outcome? I have found that this way of praying gets me to pray with hopeful expectancy instead of simply throwing up a prayer and waiting to see what happens.
We are invited to come boldly before the throne of God and part of that boldness is from an attitude of thanksgiving for what He is about to perform.
Hmmm....prayer accompanied with pre-emptive thanksgiving...
"Our prayer and God's mercy are like two buckets in a well; while one ascends, the other descends." (Arthur Hopkins)
I love this visual that prayer is active. While our prayers rise up to God, His mercy is already descending to us. God does not sit and think upon our prayers...He's already answering before we ask.
Perhaps that's why Paul follows up his exhortation to not worry with what we are supposed to think about.
Instead of asking "What if?" we think about "What is."
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)
In other words, kick the enemy's lying, worst case scenario, "what if" answers to the curb and instead invite in any thoughts that are excellent or praiseworthy. God's not just saying "think happy thoughts". He will enable us, if we ask, to redirect our thoughts to what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.
He simply says, "Ask child...and I will help you."
Sometimes the best answer to prayer is not necessarily a change in circumstances, but instead is a change in perspective.
That brings me back to my "What if's?" about my foot. First, I had a good cry...(just being honest). Then I decided, I am going to try presenting my request before God..."God, I would like healing from this pain." I am going to thank Him in advance for how He is going to answer. Even if His sovereign answer is "No" for now, the ultimate victory in the end is a "Yes" and in the meantime His grace will be sufficient for all my needs. I will choose to dwell on what is praiseworthy - all the times that God has been faithful to see me through trials in the past, and deep trust that God is always good.
I may have to repeat this prayer exercise many times...but that's okay...God desires to continually be in relationship and dialogue with us.
Dear Lord, When I am filled with the anxiety of the "what if's", let that be my cue to turn to you in prayer. You know what I need even before I ask, so please help me learn to pray with expectant thanksgiving for what you are about to do. Enable me to cast my cares upon you and instead be blanketed with your peace that passes understanding. Remind me that all I have to do is ask and that you will respond in love...because you ARE love. Thank you for your mercy, Lord. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
ps. If you have a coin jar stash somewhere in your house...would you consider donating it to help the orphans at Redeemer Christian School? If you are local, bring me your coins and I will gladly cash them in for you. If you are not local, would you "cash in your stash" and send a check to:
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC 27513
Thank you in advance...please, also, would you pray for a hedge of protection around the school because evil is at their doorstep?