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Finding Peace in the Midst of Uncertainty
By MARGARET FEINBERG
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Margaret Feinberg
All rights reserved.
When legitimate concern morphs into toxic panic, we cross a boundary line into the state of fret. No longer anticipating or preparing, we take up membership in the fraternity of Woe-Be-Me. Christ cautions against this.
Max Lucado, pastor
God Is God Is in Control in
A few years ago, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook became a best seller and spun off an entire series of books that prepared readers with step-by-step, illustrated instructions on what to do if the unthinkable happened. Whether readers found themselves caught in quicksand, near an erupting volcano, or sitting in a plane when the pilot blacked out, these handy pocket guides prepared them for all the perilous possibilities.
But these books weren't the first of their kind. They simply followed in the footsteps of other popular titles, including The Paranoid's Pocket Guide and The Hypochondriac's Handbook.
The demand for these kinds of humorous self-help guides suggests that we have a tendency to allow our minds to wander to what could go wrong. Most of us don't really need to know how to leap from a motorcycle into a moving car or wrestle free from an alligator. We'd likely consider such scenarios far-fetched or absurd. But if we take a good hard look at our everyday worst-case-scenario-type thoughts, many of us would find we spend countless hours and immeasurable energy worrying about situations that will probably never happen to us.
In the face of everyday uncertainties both small and large, we may be tempted to create and even dwell on the worst-case possibilities. But worrying never empowers us; instead, it paralyzes us.
When we worry, we allow our precious time and emotional energy to drain away. Spending a day worrying about the length of life doesn't extend it. An afternoon agonizing about finances won't improve them. An entire evening in distress over an unresolved conflict won't bring about resolution.
And worse, worry can undermine our relationship with God. Instead of turning to God through prayer, worry beckons us to take matters into our own hands. Worry is a subtle way of telling God that He's fallen asleep at the wheel and that things aren't under His authority, but ours.
Yet we can make an active choice to say no to worry. Instead of spinning on thoughts of everything that feels so out of control, we can choose to turn to God. We can ground ourselves in the truth that He is sovereign. He is the ultimate Superpower, who holds all things together. Nothing escapes His notice. We can rest assured that He is far more concerned with our well-being than we are. And He loves us more than we can possibly fathom.
Worst-case scenarios will always exist in this life, but we don't have to give in to worrying about them. On occasion, sure, a few of them might happen to us, but even then, as children of God, we can hold on to the truth that the best possible scenario is also true: God is with us. We are not alone. He is in control.
1. What is the most ridiculous worst-case scenario you've ever worried about?
Worry has a way of slipping into our lives in a variety of ways. Sometimes worst-case scenarios, but more often than not everyday concerns, consume our thoughts and energy.
2. Place a check mark by each of the statements that tend to be true about you.
_____ I sometimes wake up in the night, unable to sleep because of worrying about an issue.
_____ I tend to think about responsibilities at home and work when I'm on vacation.
_____ I can't help but worry whenever I think about my retirement account.
_____ When I make a mistake, I'm far more concerned about it than my friends would be.
_____ When someone is distant, I'm instantly concerned about what I might have done wrong.
_____ Regular doctor checkups always make me uneasy because of what the tests might reveal.
_____ Some situations or topics make my palms sweat or my heart race.
Which do you tend to worry about most?
3. Reflecting on your responses to the previous question, mark on the continuum below how you'd rate yourself as a worrier.
Throughout Scripture, God reminds people of the importance of turning to Him and depending on Him for all things. Even when people become distracted and give in to worry and fear, God calls them to place their trust in Him.
4. Read Isaiah 51:12–16. What does this passage reveal about the connection between fear and worry and forgetting God? Why is it important to remember that God is in control?
5. How did God comfort His people in this passage? What prevents you from allowing God to comfort you in moments of fear and anxiety?
Even when we know we should depend on God alone, we often succumb to placing our trust in other people or relying on ourselves. Jeremiah paints a stark picture of the difference between one who trusts in other people versus one who trusts in God. Through this passage, we're reminded that a blessed person is one who trusts God alone.
6. Read Jeremiah 17:5–8. What is the central issue with worry and anxiety? Is it possible to worry and still believe that God is fully in control? Why or why not?
7. According to this passage, what is the difference between the person who relies on his or her own strength and the one who trusts in God's strength?
8. Name three specific situations in your life right now that are tempting you to rely on your own strength rather than the truth that God is in control. Spend some time prayerfully handing control of these situations back to God.
Read Psalm 66. What does this chapter reveal about God's sovereignty or the truth that God is control of all things? What comfort do you find in this passage for your own life right now? Spend a few moments writing a personal psalm, poem, or song declaring that God is control in every area of your life.
This week memorize Isaiah 45:6–7:
"That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things."
When too many worries are blaring in earsplitting volume, peace is drowned out.
Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, founder of the Center for Counseling and Health Resources
God Is God Is Our Peace Our
If you've ever driven down the highway in the South, you've probably seen kudzu. This twining vine has stems that can extend from any node to attach to and climb surfaces or anchor itself to the ground. The green, leafy vine wraps itself around electric-line poles and old buildings and can even blanket an entire hill.
Kudzu was first introduced to the Southeast in 1883 at the New Orleans exposition and was marketed as an ornamental plant to shade porches. It was used to help control soil erosion. Eventually the US government began funding kudzu plantings and helped support the distribution of 85 million seedlings. Following crop failures, farmers began moving to more urban areas, leaving kudzu plantings unattended. Kudzu continued to grow freely. By 1970, kudzu was reclassified as a weed; by 1997, it was listed on the Federal Noxious Weed List.
Today, kudzu is known as "the vine that ate the South." Scientists have discovered that as the invasive weed spreads, it smothers other plants under its leaves. It has been known to surround tree trunks, break branches, and even uproot entire trees. The vine that appeared helpful at first has shown itself to be incredibly harmful to the ecology and land.
Much like kudzu, a little worry can at first seem innocuous. We may even convince ourselves that it's in our best interest to be extra concerned. But if left unchecked, a sprout of worry can grow until it smothers our spiritual lives and becomes increasingly noxious to others and ourselves.
Just as kudzu affects the physical landscape, worry can affect our physical bodies. When excessive worry expresses itself in the form of anxiety, our heart rate and blood pressure soon increase. Stress from worry can agitate the stomach and reveal itself in symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and acid reflux. That same stress may manifest itself in acne or rashes on the skin as well as muscular tension in the shoulders, neck, or back. The stress created from worry can affect cortisol levels, leading to weight gain. And some people respond to the stress of worry by getting headaches or chronic migraines. So how do we begin to uproot worry in our lives?
One of the keys is to turn to God as the source of our peace. Though worry may try to take over our minds and emotions, we can remember that God's amazing peace is available to us now, in this moment.
God's peace, or shalom in Hebrew, communicates more than a lack of conflict. Instead, shalom suggests that blessings and peace overflow when we are in a relationship with God.
One of the practical ways we remember God as our peace is by following the instruction of Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Instead of focusing on negative possibilities, we can choose to focus our minds and attention on those things that are true, noble, just, pure, and lovely. And we can ask God to give us a greater measure of His peace with the full confidence that He will say, "Yes!"
1. What impact does stress created from worry have on your body? Where do you tend to carry stress in your body?
Instead of succumbing to the diagnosis of worry in our lives, we are called to place our trust in God. In the midst of whatever is troubling us, He offers unmistakable peace when we trust. Isaiah writes to the Israelites, people who were prone to depending on their city and on people instead of trusting God. The author reminds the Israelites that only God is unfading and eternal. When we trust in God, we can have peace in the midst of our circumstances.
2. Read Isaiah 26:3–4. How does reorienting your mind to the truths of God affect the level of peace you experience in your life?
If anyone in Scripture had reason to worry, it was the apostle Paul. He received beatings, survived shipwrecks, suffered being hungry and thirsty, endured prison, and was constantly threatened by opposing people. But in Philippians 4, Paul urged the church in Philippi to stop worrying. Instead he challenged them to offer their worries and fears to God, the giver of peace and joy.
3. Read Philippians 4:6–7. Under what circumstances or situations are worry and anxiety acceptable according to this passage? What is prescribed instead of worry?
4. How does being thankful in a worrisome situation affect your outlook? How does it affect your ability to worry?
5. How would you describe the peace of God? What role does peace play in warding off worry (hint: verse 7)?
It's worth noting that the word guard in this passage alludes to a military term for a soldier guarding a gate or city from invaders or trespassers. Within the context of this passage, the trespassers include those things—anxiety, stress, and worry—that try to invade our lives.
6. Read John 14:27. How is the peace that Jesus gives different from the peace the world offers? Describe the last time you sensed the peace that only God can give in the midst of a difficult situation. How did it affect you?
Becoming a follower of Jesus doesn't guarantee a life free from troubles or difficulties; rather, it promises that we will not face them alone.
7. Read John 16:33. What is the source of peace and confidence? What encouragement do you find right now in knowing that the Prince of Peace overcame the world?
8. In what area of your life do you most want to experience more of God's peace right now? Spend time prayerfully asking God to reveal Himself and His peace in your life.
Read Jeremiah 29:1–7. What does this passage reveal about the importance of God's peace to individuals and entire communities? What does this passage reveal about pursuing peace? What connection do you see between living peaceably and being at peace? What is one relationship in your life in which you need to seek peace right now?
This week memorize John 14:27:
"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.
A. W. Tozer, pastor and author
God Is God Is Our Protector Our
A Native American tribe developed their own practice for training their young men to become brave warriors. On a boy's thirteenth birthday, he was blindfolded and taken deep into the forest to spend the entire night alone. Once there, the blindfold was removed, and the boy was abandoned in the darkness.
One can only imagine the worry and fear that stirred with the uncertainty all around—the crackle of a snapping twig, the howl of a wild animal, the leaves rustling in the wind. Every whisper and shadow became suspect. What animal might be preparing to attack?
After many hours of cold darkness, exhaustion sets in. When one boy was most tempted to give up hope, the first rays of sun illuminated the landscape. Bushes. Trees. A stream. And the outline of a man standing only a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow.
The boy's father had been with him all along.
Just as the boy was never alone in the midst of his trial, neither are we. No matter what challenge or difficulty we may be facing, God, our Protector, is always with us. Even when we don't feel Him. Even when we can't see Him. Even when we convince ourselves that we're in this on our own, God remains with us. And His presence is more real than life itself.
God longs to protect us, and He does a far better job than we do when we take matters into our own hands. That doesn't mean we won't face adversity in this life, but when we do, God is with us. And whatever misfortunes we encounter would have been multiplied without God's protection.
Scripture shouts of God's mighty hand delivering His people from their enemies. He led the Israelites out of slavery and into the Promised Land. Elijah was protected from Ahab and Jezebel. The psalmist describes God as a hiding place and fortress. God protected Daniel in the lions' den. Jesus provided food for thousands and healed many from their afflictions.
The wonder of turning to God as our Protector is that we are suddenly free from having to try to defend ourselves. We can let go of a responsibility that God never intended us to have in the first place. And when we do, we find that the worry and anxiety melt away.
1. When in the past month have you experienced God as Protector?
2. How many times during your life do you think God has protected you that you're not aware of? How do you feel toward God for all the times He protected you and you never even knew?
King David underwent dozens of situations where his safety was in jeopardy, including threats against his nation, his family, and himself. David declared God as his Protector in a psalm of thanksgiving. God delivered David from the hands of his enemies and from the hand of Saul, and David couldn't help but respond with a song of praise!
3. Read 2 Samuel 22:3–4. What images of God as Protector are used in this passage? Which is most meaningful to you right now? Explain.
While celebrating God as our Protector can bring peace in the midst of trials, it doesn't mean we won't encounter worrisome situations. Rather, trusting in God as our Protector means we can rest in His presence no matter what the situation. No matter what we're facing, God is near to us!
4. Read Psalm 91. What is the wording, found in verse 1 and again in verse 9, that this passage hinges on? Where are you choosing to dwell when you worry?
5. Is this passage suggesting that those who follow God will not experience loss and pain or that God will be with them in the midst of loss and pain? Explain.
6. What threats are listed in this passage? How did God respond to these threats?
Excerpted from Overcoming Worry by MARGARET FEINBERG. Copyright © 2013 Margaret Feinberg. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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