Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm
Anxiety Over Our People
Day 1: Read Genesis 21:9-20. What a mess. This passage in Genesis plays out like a modern-day soap opera or episode of Downton Abbey. Ishmael, the only son and heir to Abraham, saw all of his hopes for an inheritance shattered with the birth of Isaac. Sarah clearly felt threatened by the presence of this mocking boy who was a bitter reminder of her infertility and a competitor for her son’s inheritance. Abraham was upset because Sarah had told him to drive Ishmael and his mother out into the desert possibly to die alone. But God stepped in and promised hope. God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed…” God had a plan. He was doing something important. For Hagar, alone in the wilderness without water, the situation seemed bleak and dismal as she set her baby down to die. But God stepped in and provided everything that Hagar and Ishmael needed. Everyone in this story was worried, fearful, and anxious. But God is good, and He is faithful. Is there a character in this story you can relate to? What fears, worries, and anxieties are you struggling with? Get under His mighty hand. In due time, He will lift you up. He always cares for you.
Day2: Read 1 Kings 17:7-16. It’s hard for me as a modern Mid-Westerner to understand what it must be like to be afraid of starving to death. To be perfectly honest, I get pretty grumpy just missing a meal, and I don’t miss many of those. I can’t imagine coming to my last morsel of bread and then having some strange man ask me for it. What would my family eat? I suspect I would not respond as politely as this widow did. Stories like this one in the Old Testament can seem strange, distant, and even far-fetched. It’s hard for us to reconcile our understanding of a kind and loving God. How can God let women and children starve? Yet, God had a plan, and He provided for this widow and her child. Suffering happens in this broken world. There is plenty in this life for us to be worried about, yet our God is good. Is there someone or something more worthy of putting our trust in? Take a moment and consider this: every time you take a breath, it is a gift from God. Every time you take a sip of water, God is providing for you. God is in charge, He is sovereign, He is good, and He has a plan. We can worry about our relationships, our careers, our children, and our futures, but in the end, we are dependent on God for everything. Take a walk or pull up a chair in front of a window. Reread, pray and listen. If you have children, how might you pray for them today? How can your love and presence be a reminder to them of God’s love and faithfulness?
Day 3: Read Matthew 6:25-34. What does worrying accomplish? Can all of our worries add a single moment to our lives? Why do we have so little faith? Ok, I get it: believe more, try harder, trust more, and worry less. Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and stop worrying. But it’s impossible. Who wouldn’t like to be less anxious? It’s not as easy as just trying harder, and for some, struggling with depression and anxiety has been a life-long battle and medical condition. So how do we trust God and believe more? Verse 33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Maybe it’s not just about worrying less. Maybe it’s about changing our focus. Often, we worry when we’re focused on ourselves. What does God want us to focus on instead? Try this: take out a piece of paper and make two columns. On one side, write down a list of things you are fearful, worried, or anxious about. On the other, list out the things you believe God might want you to be focused on instead. If you are having trouble, ask a small group member or trusted friend. Keep this list and refer back to it today.
Day 4: Read Psalm 23. God is our shepherd, and we are His sheep. (Remember our Psalm 23 Series?) As our Good Shepherd, we can trust God, and He will take care of us. He is our provider. Even in the darkest valleys, we need not fear because God is with us. Would you consider memorizing this Psalm? When you find yourself struggling with anxiety, pray Psalm 23 back to God. Acknowledge Him as your Good Shepherd in your life and in the lives of your family and friends.
Day 5: Read Philippians 4:6-7. Prayer is a powerful weapon to combat anxiety. As believers, God calls us His children. (John 1:12) Just as a child can come to their parent to ask for help, so we too can come to God our loving father. Matthew 7:9-11 says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone… how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Author C.S. Lewis said, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I am helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” When we approach God in prayer, it is not God’s mind which we are seeking to change, but rather our own hearts. If you struggle with worry and anxiety, consider building prayer into your daily routine. Find three times today to set aside 3 minutes to pray or set an alarm on your phone or create an appointment with God. For parents, instead of praying for certain outcomes in your children’s lives, pray for God to grow you in loving and walking alongside them.