Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6 NLT)
I worry. I have not made it a secret that I worry about things. I get anxious. I experience stress. I’m not boasting about it, but I’m learning to accept that it’s part of who I am and how my brain works. And more recently, during the past six months as I’ve been doing cancer treatment, I’ve discovered that one of the drugs I take to help combat my cancer causes emotional ups and downs that can result in anxiety, depression, and entire nights of anxious insomnia. It’s complicated!
I’ve written about worry and anxiety. I was going to include half a dozen links to articles and devotionals I’ve written about dealing with worry and anxiety. If you’d like to see them, send me a reply/request and I’ll forward them to you. I’ve told God-stories about how God has brought me peace of mind and heart. But worry and anxiety is still a reality I must deal with.
God has helped me a great deal through the years to learn to trust more and worry less, to have peace of mind and heart and not anxiety. I’m thankful! And I’m also thankful that I don’t get as discouraged and condemned when well-meaning people quote scripture to me that says, “Don’t worry, don’t be anxious!”
A Day in Miami in 1984
In the summer of 1984, Jean and I resigned as pastors of Grace Bible Fellowship in Medford, OR, and with our daughters Stephanie and Melissa, began the process of moving to Linstead, St Catherine, Jamaica to serve as missionary pastors of Bread of Life Church. The move involved getting rid of all our furniture, most of our personal possessions, and putting our house on the market. Then we borrowed a van, traveled to Springfield, MO, and began to travel in the Midwest and South to visit churches, build relationships, and raise financial support for our mission. It was a summer of adventures and of stretching our faith and our horizons.
The target date for actually making the move to Jamaica was October 1984, and there was a lot to do! We had to make all the applications for a work permit to allow us to stay in the country, we had to coordinate with the people we would be working with in Linstead, we had to prepare the curricula for the ministry training program we would be offering at Bread of Life Church (our plan was to be in Jamaica for 18 months to train leaders for the church and a small network of area churches and then come back to the US). And we had to try to figure out what we would do for Melissa’s schooling (She was starting 8th grade). Stephanie’s plan was to stay with us in Jamaica for a few months and then return to Missouri to attend college.
As the summer wore on toward fall, the pace quickened and the pressure mounted! I traveled to Jamaica to work on the visas and work permit, Jean traveled from Springfield to Miami to purchase a used car to import to Jamaica as there were no cars available in Jamaica to purchase at that time. I returned to Miami to meet Jean and to drive together to Springfield in our newly purchased 1981 Ford Escort Station Wagon. It was an interesting 1350 mile shakedown trip for the car!
We had been shipping suitcases and boxes to a couple we had met in Miami. They would keep the items for us until we were ready to go, would take us to the airport for the flight to Kingston, and would ship our car to us in Jamaica when we had acquired the necessary import license and documents. The four of us had just made the 1350 mile trip from Springfield to Miami. We were staying overnight at the home of the people who had stored our “luggage” and would take us to the airport the next day. By the way, doing this sort of stuff makes a lot more sense when you’re 41 as we were then rather than 78 as we are now! Just sayin’!
Anyhow, for the purpose of getting to the point, let’s shift to the day of departure from Miami for Kingston. Our hosts had left for work for the day. They wouldn’t be able to take us to the airport, but a friend of theirs would come by to get us and drive us the eight miles to the airport to check in for our flight. We were four people with a total of 22 pieces of “luggage.” Our luggage consisted of suitcases, boxes of books, household items that we knew would not be readily available in Linstead, and pretty much every sort of thing but the kitchen sink! Also, this was October 1984 and the internet didn’t exist and cell phones were still somewhere off in the future. So there was no email, no text messages, and no way for us to communicate with anyone. Can you remember when life was actually like that? I know, right?
So there we sat! In a strange house, in a strange city, waiting for some promised but to us unknown person who would come for us at the appointed time and whisk us and our twenty two pieces of luggage to the Miami airport to fly off to our new life in an even stranger land. Here’s what was going on in my brain, in no particular order:
- What if our ride doesn’t show up?
- What kind of vehicle can take the four of us, on a 94 degree hot Miami afternoon, on eight miles of Miami freeway, along with our 22 pieces of luggage, and get us to the airport on time?
- If it’s a van, it could take us but not all our luggage.
- If it’s a pickup, it could take our luggage but two people would have to ride in back. In the heat. On the freeway.
- If it’s anything else, it’s not going to work anyhow!
- What if our ride doesn’t show up? (oh yeah, I already did that one didn’t I?)
I was so anxious and stressed it seems like I can still feel it. It’s a good thing we were only 41 then. Any older and I’d probably have had a stroke or a heart attack!
And then our ride pulled up in the driveway! It was a full-size four-door, crew cab Ford pickup! I know, four door pickups are everywhere now. If I walk down to the mailbox at the end of the street, I’ll pass four or five of them. But this was 1984 and crew cab pickups were rarer than unicorns! How does God do that stuff?
We loaded up our stuff, got in the truck, rode to the airport, and checked in at the curb for Air Jamaica to Kingston. Our 22 pieces of luggage (that’s 14 pieces of excess baggage) cost $200. And we got on our flight a couple of hours later, flew to Kingston, were picked up by our Jamaican friends in a caravan of vehicles, rode to Linstead, and lived happily ever after! How does God do that stuff?
Okay, what’s the lesson here? Don’t worry? Trust God? It’s gonna be alright?
Maybe. Maybe that’s the lesson in this story. But as I think back through the experience and the many experiences since that time when I was stressed and anxious and struggling, that’s not the lesson that comes to mind.
The lesson I learned that day, that I’m learning day by day, and anxious moment by anxious moment is in two parts. One part was brought to my attention in a message by Evan Earwicker at Westside Church this weekend. It’s in these words from John 6:6, “…Jesus already knew what he was going to do.”
The other part of the lesson for me in this experience is in these words from Hebrews 4:15-16: This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT)
It’s true, friends! Let’s not worry, let’s not be anxious, let’s not get stressed out by things we can’t control. I’m working on that and I’m sure you are, too. But in the meantime, in the real world, when we get overwhelmed by stuff…
1) Let’s remember that God already knows what he’s going to do.
2) Let’s remember that he understands our weaknesses, is gracious in his love and care for us, and he’s there to help us where and when we need it most!
As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.