It seems hard to believe that “Y2K” was twenty years ago. Do you remember all the troubles that were anticipated, all because experts were not sure if computers, which were programmed with a two-digit place setting for the year, would operate as normal when they registered 2000 or crash when they reverted to 1900? We were filled with anxiety as we waited to see if the utilities would continue to operate and banking software would still be running after the ball dropped. As it turned out, we worried for nothing: the world was unphased by the change in millennium as all the electronic components of 21st century life performed as required.
Much has happened over the past ten years for my family as well. We enjoyed 4 graduations, we celebrated a number of big birthdays (including both Jeanine and I turning 50 in the 2010s), we moved residences three times, and we travelled more than a hundred thousand miles. If I can be honest, I have worried about a great deal of things over the past ten years – will the kids finish High School, be accepted into a college of their choice and come home on occasion? Will we be able to find a suitable residence for our family’s needs? Will the days ahead be kind? I thank God that the previous decades have been filled with great blessing.
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:25-26 (NIV)
I have been joking with my wife and children that the Mike of 2020 is “easy, breezy” (which my youngest now has co-opted as “Covergirl Dad”), but my resolution is serious – I am consciously trying to release my inner anxiety about the things that I cannot control and release the reins on the things that I can control; thus, I will be easy and breezy. This desire to be more relaxed has made me inventory the things that I control, which turns out to be a surprisingly short list: I control my decisions, my reactions and my responses.
This year, and decade, I will make a concerted effort to make and maintain wise decisions, and not regularly revisiting the angst inherent in the process. I will try to express genuine reactions which are filled with grace and edification. I will offer thoughtful and profitable responses, refusing to delve into the bad habit of pessimism. I will not worry about whether I made the right decision, the appropriate reaction or the proper response. I will ‘go with the flow”. And in order to do this, I will seek the Spirit’s leading each new day and trust His transforming power at work within me.
If I hope to cease in my worrying, if I am dedicated to an easy, breezy disposition, I will need to place all my angst and anxiety somewhere. So I am claiming 1 Peter 5:7 as my memory verse for 2020:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
Recently, I had the opportunity to deliver a sermon on one of my favorite Bible passages: Mark 4:35-41. This portion of scripture recounts Jesus’ stilling of the storm. I find this section of God’s word particularly impactful because of the question someone in the boat asks of Jesus: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” That is a question that each one of us has asked (or will ask) whoever we understand to be our Supreme Being when our lives are on the brink of shipwreck. When we come to the end of ourselves, when our brains and our brawn have been exhausted, we all want to know if God will be there to deliver us from danger.
From the very beginning of their voyage, everyone in the boat knew Jesus’ command – “Let us go over to the other side.” Their problem was that they lacked a full understanding of who was resting in the boat with them; they failed to recognize that the man who fell asleep amid the rising swells was God the Son. They did not recognize that the one who directed the disciples to cross the sea would not lie or be denied. They were unable to comprehend that, no matter how strong the storm (and even if the boat was sunk), they would make it through the wind and waves safe to the other side. They were going to survive those frightening hours because God keeps His promises. We, too, will survive the storm.
This inability to recognize Jesus as anything more than a teacher, an expert in the Law of God, is the crux of this account. It has always fascinated me that the disciples, at least four of whom had years of nautical experience as fishermen, would wake the resting Rabbi for assistance. Perhaps this question of concern was founded in their thought that a “man of God” was blessed by God and His prayers would avail much. Maybe they remembered His miraculous power expressed in healing and deliverance, thinking that maybe He could act miraculously again. The point is, someone in that boat thought that Jesus was special and wondered if He could save them. We, too, have times when we wonder if Jesus can save us.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
Why did Jesus calm the sea? He did not still the waves to assure safe passage; that would have happened anyway. He did not rebuke the wind to demonstrate His power over the natural order; they already knew He could do that. He did all this to bring peace to the hearts of twelve frightened grown men; He showed that He cared for them, not just their circumstances. The danger in reading passages like this that it can lead us to assume that God will always tame the troubles that terrify us. That would miss the point that Jesus came to tame our fear, not simply take them away.
We all have anxious moment when we wonder if God cares, or even know, about us. Here is a reminder that He does. He cares enough to weather the storms with us and still the storms within us.
This week Jeanine and I have been looking at apartments. We need to move at the end of next month and we are trying to find a place where we can see ourselves and our children living for the next few years, God willing. It is a challenge – there are features in a dwelling that are necessities, features that are preferences and features that are luxuries – and these features interplay with cost and location. Do we live where we can comfortably afford the rent, even if it is in a less-than-desirable neighborhood? Do we really need a washer and dryer on property or a dishwasher in the kitchen (for those keeping score, one is a necessity and the other is a preference)? Can we survive without the luxury of a dining room so that we can enjoy the preference of four bedrooms? Where does keeping the younger kids in their present schools fall within our priorities?
Needless to say, these questions (and their gelatinous nature) and these decisions (not just on our part, but also on the part of the homeowners) are keeping my wife and me up at night with anxious thoughts. I’d like to say that I could be happy wherever we move, but I have a nagging feeling that I may not be happy just anywhere. I want to say that I am trusting in the Lord to guide our steps in the process, but I also feel that I am dragging my feet along the way. What can I do to lessen these feelings of dread and fear?
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Honestly, I simply need to release it. These concerns and apprehensions that I am holding onto like a child’s security blanket I just need to hand over to God, knowing that He will address these concerns and implement His loving plan for my future. This, frankly, is difficult for me: I find it hard to ride in a car that I am not driving; how can I be expected to give up control of my whole life? And that is the reason I have had more than a few sleepless nights recently. I am greatly concerned and anxious about things that are truly beyond my control. The tension in my life is not about moving (or about the logistics of trucks and boxes and calendars) but about seeking to manage what I cannot manage.
It is somewhat like what my wife and youngest son did the other day – they tried to finish all the puzzles in his room before they were packed into boxes. Some of the puzzles were missing pieces (including some of the ‘crucial to solving’ edges) and try as they might, their task could not be completed. Did they worry, fret or frown because the job was left undone? Did the unfinished puzzle consume their thoughts? No – those puzzles were simply set aside, destined for the recycling bin, and they moved onto the next ones. I can only work with what I’ve got and trust that God will allow me the pieces of this puzzle called life when He knows I am ready to place them in.
We will likely be making some decisions this weekend. If you are a person who prays, please consider lifting my family (and our living situation) before the throne. And if you are like me, trying to ‘cast and claim His care’, let me know how I can pray for you. It’ll give me something different (and better) to focus on should I find myself still unable to sleep.