Filed under: God, life, parenting, relationships | Tags: anxiety, david herndon, Easter, fear, God, illness, jesus, john 16:33, phillipians 4, prayer, sickness, worry
I awoke suddenly to the incessant beeping of the IV machine, letting the entire hall know that it was time to change the bag. Luckily the patient did not wake up since by now I knew how to work the buttons better than the PM nurse. I settled back into the plastic covered recliner that was my bed and tried to go back to sleep, knowing that in 90 minutes I would be up again, helping take vitals with the nurse. I was exhausted, but sleep did not come easy.
I was worried. I was anxious.
This was my life for most of last week. My son woke up one morning with a stomach ache. A doctor’s visit, a hospital stay, and then a transfer to another hospital. It could be appendicitis. I could be colitis. It could be a parasite. “We’ll have to run tests to be sure.” Tests meant drawing blood, among other things. Lots of pricking and prodding tended to weary the patience of the strongest 6 year old I know. Doctors, nurses, needles, oh my. He was scared. So was I. My son was sick and I didn’t know what was wrong or how to fix it.
So in the early hours of the morning I sat in my plastic recliner and prayed. Then God reminded me of this scripture:
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).”
I get it. I’ve heard like a million Christian talks on how “worry is the opposite of faith,” and how “worry is a sign that we are trying to control God,” and blah, blah, blah. I know that I shouldn’t worry about making a good impression on the new neighbors. I know that I shouldn’t worry about that red light when I’m already running late. I shouldn’t worry about affording to pay for one more Disney trip. That’s first world problems. That’s the small stuff. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the big stuff. What if I can’t afford to pay for all three of my children to go to college? What if my daughter gets pregnant as teen? What if one of my sons gets a girl pregnant? What if one of my children becomes a drug addict? What if I get cancer? What if one of my children gets cancer? What if my wife gets cancer? What if its not appendicitis or a stomach bug? What if its something worse?
When you love someone as much as a parent loves a child or a husband loves a wife… how do you not worry?
When tragedy strikes and your whole world turns upside down… how are you supposed to be thankful?
Abraham worried about fulfilling God’s call so he had a child with a woman who wasn’t his wife. Noah worried about finding land after the flood, so he kept sending birds to their deaths as they flew across endless water. Gideon worried about battle so he often tested and challenged God. Paul writes in Philippians 4 the famous “do not worry” passage, but just 2 chapters before he talks about his own anxiety concerning one of his disciples, Epaphroditus. And even Jesus, the night before his death, sweated blood as he prayed, “If there is another way, let this cup pass from me.” The bible doesn’t really give instructions on how not to worry.
I hashed this out with God, the beeping IV machine, and the plastic recliner all night. As I watched my son sleep I couldn’t help but think that my love for him is but a fraction of God’s love for us. “I would give my life for his health,” I said. “So would I,” God replied, “and so I did.”
In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
This next sentence is difficult to write and perhaps more difficult to read.
God is not as concerned about our health and well-being and general comfort in life as we are. I’m not saying that He’s not concerned. Its just that the things we value most are not as valuable to Him. On the cross, Jesus could have died so that we would never experience illness or disease. He could have died so that we would never experience poverty or hunger. He could have died so that we would never experience injustice or hate.
But he didn’t die for those things.
Jesus died so that we would never have to experience separation from God.
God is most concerned with our relationship to Him. The only thing that ever threatened our relationship with God, and thus our eternity, is sin. Through the cross, Jesus took care of that problem. So we don’t have to worry about it anymore. We’re cured… if we want to be.
The truth is that any anxiety I feel is evidence of being more concerned with this life than the life to come.
I may or may not be able to afford three college educations. My children may or may not become drug addicts. My son may or may not have a parasite that makes his stomach hurt. God does not require us to have a college education in order to understand His love. God does not require us to be clean and sober in order to receive His grace. God does not require us to be healthy in order to live in His ways. God does not value us based on our checking account, our car title, or the title on our office door.
In the end none of that really matters because none of these things determine my relationship with God. None of these things determine my eternity.
I still worry, especially about my family. I probably always will. I don’t understand how to prevent anxiety anymore now than I did last week in the hospital. But I take great comfort in the fact that my eternity has nothing to do with my abilities (or lack thereof) or my wealth (or lack thereof) or my success (or lack thereof) or my health (or lack thereof).
My eternity has everything to do with Jesus’ victory over sin in His death and resurrection. I can be thankful for that. No matter what happens (or doesn’t happen) today, my sins are forgiven and my eternity is secure in Jesus Christ. Come illness, come trouble, come injustice, come hardship… nothing can take that away.
I can be thankful for that.
And that is one less thing to worry about.
I’m a night owl, there is no doubt about it. My mind just seems to wake up after about 11 PM. I feel more creative, I feel more productive, everything is quiet, no chance of interupption, and I feel like I have all the time in the world. I once stayed up all night just to paint my kitchen. I often stay up late to write this blog (that might be why some of them don’t make much sense). The truth is, my late nights are not near as productive or creative as they feel. I’m much better on 8 hours of sleep at 9 AM. I start off at night focused and have good intentions, but I get pulled in so many different directions – I feel like I have all the time in the world, so I try to do it all. But inevitably during my late night sessions, a time comes when I look at the clock and realize how little time I have left myself for sleep. I realize that I have more things to do tomorrow that will be done much better if I get some rest. I realize that there are so many more important things I could have been putting my time and energy towards, but instead I have squandered it on the night – and now nothing is done. Everything is undone. This is my “Oh no!” moment – when all the good feelings of late night disappear, when I realize that like it or not, the morning is coming soon. I spent the night following my feelings with no accountability. I didn’t think or listen to reason or common sense. Now all of the different feelings change into one feeling – the I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It feeling.
I drink coffee in the morning because I don’t feel like waking up and being productive. Sometimes, in order to fight the urge to stay up late I will take a Tylenol PM because I don’t feel like going to sleep. I have weeds in my flower beds because I don’t feel like pulling them out. My “check engine” light has been on for months, but I don’t feel like taking my car in. There are people I need to forgive me, but I don’t feel like asking for forgiveness. There are people I need to forgive, but I don’t feel like talking to them. There are friends I have not seen or spoken to in years, because I can never find a convenient time when I feel like making a phone call or writing a letter. I passed a guy on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere who had a flat tire. I’m not sure if he even had a spare. I didn’t feel like stopping to find out.
The I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It factor rules so much of our lives, and inevitably we find ourselves in this state much like staying up late. We think we’ll get around to “it.” We think eventually we will feel like it. We think we have more time than we really do. And so we leave so many important things undone… and unsaid.
On the night before Jesus was crucified he went into a garden to spend some time in prayer. He knew he had something pretty important to do the next day and it was going to be a challenge – so he sought guidance. This was his prayer: “Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from me.” Translation: “I don’t feel like it.” Jesus is saying that he does not feel like sacrificing himself, that he does not feel like receiving the punishment of others, that he does not feel like being nailed to a cross like some kind of criminal. Jesus does not feel like saving the world. But that is not the end of the prayer. he goes on: “yet, not my will, but your’s be done.” Translation: “I don’t feel like it, but I’ll do it anyway.”
What if Jesus followed his feelings? What if Jesus gave in to the I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It Factor? What if because Jesus did not feel like dying, he didn’t? What would that mean for all of us? For all of history? For all of eternity?
What if you give in to the I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It factor? What would that mean for all of us? For all of history? For all of eternity?
Jesus knew one simple truth: the morning is coming soon. Time is going to run out. You cannot wait to do what is needed until you feel like it. Most of the time, the things we feel least like doing are perhaps the most important thing we could do. Maybe now is a good time to do it.
If you need a little inspiration to put this message into action, I wrote a song on this theme called “Morning’s Coming Soon.” You can listen to it and download it HERE.