Do you worry? I do. I’m nearly always worrying about something or other, and I’m not proud of it. During the past few years, as we moved from one farm to another, it felt like I lived in a whirlwind of uncertainties and anxiety about the future.
Moving might sound petty compared to the worries you’re facing right now, and it very well could be. Moving was a small thing, relatively speaking. As complicated and slightly terrifying as it was to move an entire farm… we were just relocating two hours away.
Past worries have a way of shrinking to their proper size as we travel farther down the road and gain perspective. Present or future worries, however, can loom over our heads like tottering sequoias, filling our whole vision and threatening to crush us with their weight.
I hope this post reminds you to take a few steps back from the tree that’s sprouting new branches of worry every moment. I hope it reminds you that you don’t have to (and indeed, can’t) chop down this forest alone, but that you can hand your burden to the Carpenter who is building something beautiful from the wood.
Now, let’s go back to moving for a little bit. At one point, my parents had narrowed down our choices to two farms: one that was breathtakingly beautiful and well-kept, complete with a grand house. The other farm seemed… tired. And cold, and lonely.
When I walked into the first house, it felt so right. Surely God wanted us to move here!
I prayed that the Lord would give me an eager and joyful heart about whatever farm my parents chose…. but, I whispered selfishly, please help it be the one I want.
Guess what? We didn’t get the farm I wanted. I was crushed by that one relatively unimportant decision, and a whole new flood of discontent and anxiety threatened to submerge me.
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe God was good, it’s just that I questioned whether his definition of goodness was the same as mine. I secretly wondered whether my life wouldn’t turn out better if I was in control instead of God. But He used that small trial to teach me more fully that I am not in control of my life, and that’s a good thing.
“If we believe that somehow it is up to us to take control of our lives and the lives of those we love, fear is inevitable, because we simply aren’t in control of anything.”– trust: a godly woman’s adornment, by Lydia Brownback
The fact that God is in control of our lives instead of us is a terribly hard truth to swallow. Doesn’t it make you want to close this tab and find a more palatable article, maybe one telling you to believe in yourself to find happiness? But, despite what our culture proclaims with a sticky smile, “following your heart,” will only lead to more anxiety and worry. Trusting in ourselves would work if we were as perfect and powerful as the world tells us we are, but… we aren’t.
Deep down we can feel that, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Look around you. Look inside you. Look inside me. It’s true.
But Satan whispers, as he did from the very beginning, that we can follow our feeble, lying heart’s desires and “be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) He tempts us away from trusting in God by making us believe that we are our own gods. And his strategy works frighteningly well.
I gave into it when we were choosing between farms. I placed my security and happiness in my own plan for my life, and when it fell apart, so did I.
Worry begins when life threatens to diverge from our treasured hopes and plans for our own lives. If that last sentence resonates with you like it does with me, let me encourage you: life won’t go according to your plan, simply because God has a better one.
That reminds me of the ubiquitous verse, Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
We tend to take that and say, “oh, that means God wants me to be happy! God’s will is just whatever makes me feel good, right?” Sorry, but nope. Sometimes God’s will leads us to terribly hard places on the path to ultimate, heavenly joy.
For example, let’s look at that verse in context. (Always a good thing to do anyway, heh.) Jeremiah was prophesying to the Israelites who were exiles in Babylon. In the previous verse, the Lord proclaimed that the Israelites would be exiles in Babylon for 70 more years after this prophecy is spoken.
So no, Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t saying that God is going to immediately step up and make you feel better. But take heart, dear! When God gives you more than you can handle (and he will, trust me), you can rest in the fact that he will help you handle what you’ve been given.
Not only that, but God is allowing whatever it is that’s worrying you for a reason. He doesn’t just throw up his hands in surprise when something bad happens and then try to appease us by patting us on the back until it’s over. No! He knew this would happen before the foundation of the world; it is part of his good and perfect plan for you.
Another example: the book of Judges. It’s one of the most exasperating books of the Bible to read because it’s filled with Israel disobeying God over and over, being punished by exile, then coming to their senses and crying out to God to save them, after which He rescues them once again in his astounding patience and grace. (Hmm, sounds a bit like the story of my life…)
As the Israelites learned, often the brittle thread of our “good works,” good career, or good life has to snap before our eyes can see the mighty rope of salvation through Christ dangling right before our face. Judges is a wonderful example of how God uses the trials that worry us to bring himself the glory that is inextricably bound up with our good.
I knew this theoretically, but I sure had a hard time applying it practically when we were moving. I acted as if my security, my true happiness, depended on Jesus + the prettiest house, or Jesus + the nicest farm. Nope! It really depended on Him alone.
Your happiness depends on Jesus alone.
That sentence should fill us with joy! Why? Because if our happiness is staked on Jesus, it is unquenchable. He’ll never me fail like my hopes and plans will. He’ll never change like my desires will. He’ll never let me down like literally every other thing in this world will.
My friends, I know many of you truly believe salvation comes through God alone. Then why, why are we acting as if other things can save us too? If I have Jesus + more money, I’ll be okay. If I have Jesus + coffee, I can get through the morning If I have Jesus + other people’s approval, my life will be complete. No, no, NO!
“The security for which we long will never be found in Jesus and something or someone else; it will be found in him alone.”
trust: a godly woman’s adornment, by Lydia Brownback
Lord, I plead guilty. Help me place my trust in You and You alone. Dispel my anxiety, wipe away my worries, and take away my urge to control my life, for I would bring death upon myself if I could. Help me take to heart Phillippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Let me take my worries ultimately to You and not look to other people or idols to erase them.
Help me trust your Son, who came to earth for me and grew up as a Nazarite carpenter, to skillfully guide me through a forest of worries, knowing that You have allowed each size and shape and type of wood to take root, and that Your Spirit will, in His own perfect time, hew them down and build something wonderful from them that will proclaim the glory of their builder and shelter me under Your grace. Never let my worries obstruct my view or distract my heart from You. In the name of your Son Jesus, who carried the all sins and cares of the world to the cross, Amen.