Pray More, Worry Less

Pray More, Worry Less

“Pray More; Worry Less”. In our kitchen we have a spoon rest that sits to the right of our stovetop with this simple phrase printed on it. I see it when I cook,  wipe the counters, or whenever I am in the kitchen. Sometimes it’s the first thing I read in the morning. It was a gift from a friend that I didn’t like at first but has become one of my favorite items in our house. It reminds me throughout the day what I often forget: we have God’s listening ear at every moment.  We have God’s presence every moment, and his vast and unsearchable knowledge includes knowing about every moment of our lives. 

I am definitely prone to doing the opposite of the spoon rest. When something is troubling me, I almost automatically worry more and pray less! If you’re like me, you might  worry about upcoming dates, deadlines, people’s opinions, letting people down (again), and what might happen if loose ends are not tied up. You might worry about how your friends are doing, how your kids are doing, how your parents are doing, your siblings, or your spouse. You might worry a lot of the time; maybe even more than anything else you do.  

You might also worry about things that are gut-wrenching and impossible to solve. Those worries lurk and cling to the insides of our hearts: divorce, sudden tragedy, a child’s future, illnesses and diagnoses, a job we need but don’t have, a spouse’s death, someone else’s traumatic hardship, or underlying guilt or shame.

Probably the hardest thing for me about these kinds of thoughts and feelings is that they demand an answer. I feel the need to get to the bottom of them, quickly, or things will not be alright.  In this sense, at least for me, they are powerful. When I worry, my thoughts line up and follow their favorite leaders: it’s up to me and it will not be ok. My tone of voice, my actions, my interactions with others follow suit. And when a larger group of people is worried about something, it is a strong environment indeed. You can feel it. 

But an even more powerful, truer and better way of living is praying, as the spoon rest so humbly states. Here are some words from the Bible that I believe connect to this: 

 “Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life….Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?  Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying?”  Matthew 6:25-27  

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6 

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  Colossians 3:2

For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.  Psalm 103:14 

…the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:4–5 

When I read these verses, I am reminded that the truths we stand on are not our own ability to find solutions and solve problems, or threats that things may not be ok. The truth is that things will be more than ok; they will be blessedly, amazingly, and overwhelmingly GOOD. An almighty God reigns and knows about our concerns. We live in God’s universe, and because of Jesus, with God’s own presence. God’s own presence. We have something besides ourselves to count on. 

Even so, it sometimes just seems too hard to pray when I’m worried. I think this is in part because I try to clear my mind of burdens first before I start to pray, which is impossible for me! Another challenge when I am anxious, concerned, or worried is not feeling strong enough to “take every thought captive to obey Christ”.  I have so many thoughts, and so many are often out of line with who God is. So many are “raised up against the knowledge of God”!  I question the truth of his sovereignty and assert my own control and my own agenda over my life.

So, I’m practicing stopping for at least a moment to acknowledge God’s presence as my mind races or when it is fixated on something unsolvable. I let the worries come but think of them moving toward him instead of toward myself. I ask for clarity for what needs to be addressed and what doesn’t, even with the concerns that I feel are most pressing. Sometimes I write them down or talk out loud like I would to a friend. What is God’s agenda for these items? What is his vantage point? 

After driving away from a time of prayer with a family facing a heartbreaking situation, I was amazed that the feeling of our prayer time together was the same as when I pray for smaller things with my spouse, or my friends, or community group.  It was a feeling of rest that our worries had been given to the one who can actually carry them. Maybe, God really is worthy of our trust. Maybe you and I actually can believe that we are dust, but he is King.

The Lord Is Near

The Lord Is Near

I’ve been feeling it again lately, the tightening in my chest, the tension that gathers there. It’s how my body lets me know that I need to slow down and pay attention. It’s my warning light. All is not as it should be. This is my sign that worry and anxiety are on the rise. This is my signal to get back to basics, do the things that I know are healthy for me; mind, body, and soul. So I make sure I am getting enough sleep, exercising and eating well, spending time outside and with friends and family. I make sure I am spending intentional time in prayer, I dig into the Psalms, and I return to my go-to Scriptures for times like these. I want to be clear that I am not talking about clinical anxiety; we live in a broken and fallen world and our bodies don’t always work the way that God designed them to. Medication is important and needed for many people to manage their anxiety, I understand that. Here I am speaking about average low-level anxiety. 


So I found myself reciting Philippians 4:6 again last week. “Do not be anxious about anything…” and for the first time, that word “anything” just brought me to a full stop. Wait, what? “Do not be anxious about anything.” Anything. Anything? It feels like there are a lot of things happening in our world today that seem very logical to be anxious about. War, gun violence, so much political division and anger, cancer, poverty…I could go on and on. It seems like this verse should say, “Do not be anxious about most things, but there are some things it’s perfectly reasonable to be anxious about.” But it says “anything.”  And, Paul wrote this while he was in prison. It seems like if anyone should get to fret it would be Paul. I even tried looking up the Greek to see if I could find a loophole. Nope. 


I am a worrier by nature, (an Enneagram 6 if you are into that kind of thing) and this verse has always been a challenge and an encouragement to me. But it just feels especially hard right now. So I sat with the “anything” for a while. Honestly, I am still wrestling with it. But I kept going, and I am so thankful that even though the word “anything” brought me up short, the verse does not stop there. God does not leave us with a seemingly impossible command without help. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In every situation we are to turn over our anxieties, our fears, our plans to God. Open our hands that are clenched into fists with anxiety and trust that He is good, He is sovereign and He loves us. 


This is not easy. Sometimes the darkness seems so very close. But we are to stop and present our requests to God. And thank Him for who He is and the blessings in our lives. And as we zoom out and read this along with the surrounding verses. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice (v. 4)” Always rejoice. “Let your gentleness be evident to all (v. 5a)” Be gentle to all. Living a life of rejoicing and gentleness doesn’t seem to leave a lot of room for worry and fear. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (v. 7)” 


Sometimes I feel the peace of God and sometimes I do not. Sometimes I cannot seem to really trust that God’s good plans and purposes will prevail.


I think the key to all of this, the rejoicing and the thanksgiving and the being anxious about nothing, is verse 5b, “The Lord is near.” This could mean either close in proximity to us, or close in time, or Paul could mean both. But the Lord is near. I think the source of a lot of our anxiety is our impoverished view of God, and that definitely rings true for me. And our gracious God doesn’t leave us wondering who He is; He tells us over and over in His Word. A few examples…


The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7


Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30


He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. Psalm 147:4-5


Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Your is the kingdom, O Lord and you are exalted as head above all. 1 Chronicles 29:11


This is just a small sampling that shows us the God who is near. Merciful. Gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Forgiving. Just. Gentle. Lowly. Giver of rest. Powerful. Creator. Omniscient. Glorious. Victorious. Exalted. 


He is good. He loves us. He is in control. We don’t have to be. 


We can rejoice always. We can be gentle to all. We can even not be anxious about anything. So during this time of heightened anxiety for me, this has become a breath prayer for me. “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious.”


The Lord is near.

How to Minimize Worry

How to Minimize Worry

When I was in high school, I got my driver’s license. Perhaps you did too. And when I got my license, there was one thing I heard again and again. Every time I’d get ready to leave the house, my mom would shout: “Call me when you get there,” which is the last thing any 16-year-old wants to hear from a parent.

“Call me when you get there,” she’d say as I was heading out.

“Call me when you get there,” she’d repeat as the door closed behind me.

“Call me when you get there.”

I’d get so mad whenever she said it. But no matter how much I protested, she didn’t stop. It was like a playlist on repeat.

So one evening, as I was walking towards the door, those familiar words followed after me. And I erupted.

I turned around and said, “Mom, you have GOT to stop saying that. It’s driving me crazy.” And I’ll never forget how she responded. She looked at me, knowing I was so mad, and said, Tyler, I’m sorry, but I’ll always be your momma.”

Her words were profound. “I’ll always be your momma…”

It was her way of saying, “Because of who I am, I can’t help but be concerned about you.” 

“Because I’m your momma, I’m compelled to tell you to call.”

“Because I’m your momma, I think about you when you leave.

Because of who I am, I have these concerns.”

And this is how it works, isn’t it?

Because of who we are, there are things that concern us.

Because we’re recent graduates, or because we live on our own. Because we’re in between jobs, or because we just got promoted. Because the test is coming up. Because the rent is almost due. Because we’ve reached a certain age, a certain income, or a certain low point in life.

Because of who we are, there are things that concern us. And that’s not always a bad thing. Some concerns are good concerns. They motivate us to plan for the future, or to cut back on our spending, or to eat like we know we should.

But there are times when our concerns become our worries. 

There are times when what concerns us comes to consume us. And when that happens, following Jesus tends to get placed on the back burner. Which is ironic because Jesus had a lot to say about worry.

In fact, one day Jesus told His followers: “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”

Imagine how audacious this must have sounded to Jesus’s original audience.

When Jesus spoke these words, food supplies were entirely dependent on how much it rained and whether or not a farmer could protect the crop from pests. A year of drought or a swarm of locusts could mean starvation. You couldn’t drive down the street to the grocery store. There was no safety net. If food ran out, it was over.

Nevertheless, Jesus instructed His disciples not to worry about what they were going to eat or about what they were going to drink or about what they were going to wear.

And here’s why:

Jesus mentions these specific necessities of life—food, water, and clothing—as a way of helping His followers understand that His solution for worry reaches all the way down to their most fundamental concerns. Jesus suggests that He knows a reason not to worry that will bring encouragement and comfort even when what’s most basic seems to be in jeopardy.

And then He makes His point.

“Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

“Consider the lilies of the field, how the grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you?”

Are you following His logic?

Jesus says, do not worry about your life because your Father in heaven cares about you. You’re valuable to Him. If He makes sure the birds are fed and the fields look gorgeous, don’t you think He’ll watch out for you?

Jesus says you don’t need to worry because you’re valuable to God.

This is not to say that God doesn’t care about the Earth He made or the creatures in it. Nor is it to say that we, as responsible stewards of His creation, shouldn’t feel responsible and care for the natural world.

But, it is to say that when God made all that there is—the land and sea, the sky, the birds and fish and animals—He loved everything He formed. In fact, the Genesis account says He called every element of creation “good.” But then, He topped off all of creation with the stamp of His own image. God made humans and called them “very good,” marking us as special and treasured in His created order.

So there stands Jesus, looking at crowds of people just like us—people who are tempted to worry. And Jesus says: Don‘t fret. You’re valuable to your Heavenly Father.

Jesus insists that the key to leaving worry behind is trusting God’s concern for us.

But that isn’t always easy. In fact, most days it feels downright impossible. What makes it so tough?

I can think of three primary ways our trust for God can break down:

First, we can doubt His infinite love for us.

Second, we can doubt His infinite wisdom as it relates to our needs.

Third, we can doubt His ability to act on our behalf.

How does your trust in God get derailed?

Do you doubt God’s infinite love?

Do you believe He doesn’t love you? That maybe He loves all people in a general sense but not you specifically? And not you completely—especially after what you’ve done and where you’ve been. Do you think He loves you a little, or maybe even a lot, but not infinitely? Not enough for you to give Him your complete trust. Is that you? Do you doubt God’s infinite love?

Or Do you doubt God’s infinite wisdom?

Do you question whether He truly knows what’s best for you? Do you wonder if He really knows what you really need? Or do you feel like He knows what’s best for humans broadly, but not what’s best for you right this moment? Do you think He needs a little more input into how to respond best to your situation? Do you doubt God’s infinite wisdom?

Or Do you doubt God’s ability to act?

Do you question His power? Do you feel like He would be doing more to change your circumstances if He could? Do you feel like His hands are tied behind His back? Do you doubt God’s ability to act?

These are three primary ways our trust for God can break down.

How does your trust in God get derailed?

It’s worth knowing the answer to that question. Because knowing precisely how our trust tends to erode can help us focus our trust-building efforts.

If you’re tired of worry ruling your life, and if you’ve realized where your trust in God frequently fails, here’s one final suggestion:

Spend the next week reading and rereading Matthew 6:25-34. Reflect on Jesus’ words.

Jesus says: You’re valuable to God, and God notices what you need.

He says: The God who created and sustains the world thinks you’re the best thing on the planet, and He’s got your best interests in mind.

Remind yourself of this truth again and again and again. And as it sinks in, see if it doesn’t loosen worry’s grip. In the end, it can’t be denied: Because of who we are, there are things that concern us. And those concerns can come to consume us.

But because of who God is—because He’s our loving Heavenly Father—there are things that concern Him.

Our flourishing, our growth, our wholeness, and our relationship with Him number chief among them. So let Him focus His energy on you and your future while you focus your energy and your attention on Him and His care.

I promise, it will change everything.

3 Ways to Combat Anxiety

It was spring of 2011; I was sitting in speech class. About 20 minutes in, I started to feel my heart beat a little faster than normal. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first, but then it started to beat faster to the point where it was hard to catch my breath. I raised my hand in the middle of my professor’s lecture and said, “I can’t breathe.”

Puzzled and not knowing what to do, my professor asked if I needed to step out. So, I did. The problem was that my heart was still beating extremely fast. I went to the nurse’s office and she told me my pulse. 145 beats per minute. She panicked and called an ambulance, which then caused me to panic even more. The ambulance arrived, and I was rushed to the hospital. This was the beginning of my anxiety story.

Some of you reading have had a similar situation happen to you. Some of you have people you love who struggle with anxiety. Some of you have been present when someone you love has had a panic attack. Some of you know what it’s like to have panic attacks and be filled with fear because it feels like you are going to die.

Anxiety is an indicator of our fears, rational or not. Fear of never being loved again, fear of being left or rejected, fear of getting a life-shattering diagnosis, fear of being alone, fear that something bad is going to happen all the time, fear that no one will show up. So, what do we do? How do we combat our anxiety?

First, embrace your anxiety

If you are anything like me, I hated having anxiety. I couldn’t stand not being able to be calm in a movie theatre, a classroom, when I was at a friend’s house or home alone. I wanted to reject the fact that I had anxiety because I was ashamed of it. I didn’t like having panic attacks and wondering if I was having a heart attack.

As one person put it, “Anxiety is difficult because you don’t know if what you are thinking/feeling is true or not.” This is hard. For those of you who struggle, you understand the depths of what I’m saying.

However, hear me loud and clear: You are not bad, disgusting, or worthless because you struggle with anxiety. Your anxiety does not disqualify you or keep you out of reach. You are not your anxiety.

You are loved, worthy, valuable, and accepted just as you are. Period. You are a dignified human being who struggles with anxiety, and that’s okay. It’s okay if you need to take medication. It’s okay if you need constant reminders that you are loved. The more we are ashamed of this, the more we will believe that anxiety is who we are. It’s not.

As Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” You are an image-bearer of God himself. Embrace your anxiety. Allow it to be your teacher. Because once you can embrace it, it loses its power over you.

Second, study your anxiety

It is helpful and vital to know you have anxiety and embrace it, but it doesn’t stop there. Anxiety affects us and our relationships in deep ways, and if we don’t deal with it, know what triggers it, and put intentional steps in place to combat it, we will always feel defeated by it.

Just like we take the time to get to know someone else, study for a test, exercise, and rest, we need to be aware of what sets off our anxiety and take the time to deal with it. One way we can study our anxiety is by reaching out to a trusted friend and sharing our struggle with them so that we have someone who is in it with us.

Another way is seeking out professional help from a therapist. Let me say that not every therapist is right for you. You get to be picky on who your therapist is and what you need from them. However, the counseling room can be a helpful tool in understanding your trauma, childhood wounds, and what triggers are affecting your anxiety or why you have it.

Also, be aware of when your anxiety is triggered. When you are feeling your anxiety come on, what’s happening? Where are you? Where do you feel it in your body? Did someone say something that reminded you of a hurtful experience? Having some awareness in the moment can help prepare you so that when something triggers your anxiety you become less reactive to it.

Sometimes we can’t physically do this on our own, and that’s why medication is often prescribed. If that is something you need, it is okay. This is why it’s important to have a trusted professional who can come alongside to help and give you the space to discern what you might need.

Dealing with your anxiety is not a one-time deal, it’s a life-time study. Be patient with yourself. For those who are in a relationship with someone who struggles, be patient with them. Do some research on how anxiety works and have a posture of grace and understanding. As Proverbs 12:25 states, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Anxiety weighs heavily, and we need people who can come alongside us for the long haul ready to lift some of the weight.

Lastly, release your anxiety

There’s a verse in the Bible that people often use to help those who are struggling with anxiety. It’s Philippians 4:6-7, which states,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

It’s an amazing verse. However, some have used it to say to those who are anxious that you are bad or sinful just because you have anxiety. That’s not what this verse is saying. Paul is talking about release. In fact, to command someone to not be anxious presupposes that we will struggle with being anxious. Paul isn’t saying that if you are anxious you are sinning, but instead he is saying that when anxiety creeps in, remember that there is Someone who can give you peace in the midst of it.

Friends, some of us will struggle with anxiety for the rest of our lives. The beauty about being in relationship with Jesus is that He carried your anxiety and died for it; so that every time anxiety comes, He welcomes it and is ready to carry it with you and extend peace. You can release it to Him. He can handle it.

Now, this doesn’t mean that releasing it will automatically remove your struggle with anxiety, but it does mean that we can hang on with confidence to the hope that one day we will be given eternal peace. Our hearts and minds will forever be at ease. Oh, what a day that will be. The magnificent part about it is that we get to experience a taste of that peace here on earth.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

May it be so.