While giving a devotional at a nearby assisted living home I asked the residents in my small group how they worry. They looked at me with very puzzled expressions. One shrugged, and then said she doesn’t worry. Others were quiet. I prodded a little. How about when someone didn’t do their task just as they’d like it done? How about when a friend spoke sharply to them? How about when they learned family members were sick or having some other trouble? How about world news?
Slowly their faces showed they were somewhat involved in worry. But one insisted she doesn’t worry, that she just trusts in God. I told her that’s exactly what she needs to do. But then I added, “What if you did worry, how would you do it?”
Silence. A shrug or two. Eyes facing their laps. (“What is this crazy woman trying to do, make us start worrying?”)
Yes, I began to tell them how to worry. By thinking about the problem, whatever it is. Thinking and thinking and thinking. All day long, maybe all night long.
Understanding appeared in their sweet wrinkled faces. Slowly they began to express some worries they had. One had been very irritated by an attendant at the home who wouldn’t make her bed the way she wanted it. Another has a friend who isn’t well.
Having established how we worry–by holding onto some thought as stubbornly as a bulldog gnaws his favorite bone–then I could tell them that prayer works the same way, only it’s positive and good and brings peace. When those worrisome thoughts try to take over we need to replace them with prayers.
Paul in Philippians 4:8 tells us some things to think on, prayer thoughts to send the worries away: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
We spent a few minutes thinking about what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. The Bible is true, they said. They named folks who are honest. We decided God is just, the weather is just, time is just, same for every one of us. Babies are pure, God is pure, newfallen snow is pure. Our grandchildren are lovely (most of the time!) as well as camellia blossoms, birds perched on a branch, smiles of friends. And we talked about the report that so many folks have come to know the Lord through Billy Graham’s recent video, that the Lord is still using Billy Graham in his nineties to bring thousands to become children of God.
We are worrisome creatures. We worry about almost everything, our fingernails, our credit cards, our doctor’s appointments, our dinner menu, our children, our church, whether it will rain or whether it won’t rain, etc. etc. Deciding not to worry doesn’t work nearly as well as deciding to replace worry with prayer. Next time the train is taking forever to pass and you’re drumming your fingers on the steering wheel in impatience, begin to pray for the conductor and other employees on the train, pray for the people behind you, and thank the Lord the signal stopped you so you’re safe watching the train and not in front of it!