Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When the Answer I Needed Was Already Written in the Margin

When Ryan was a little boy, he came home from TCPS one day, full of information. "Hey, Mom. Do you know why Psalm 37 says not to fret three times?"

"No, Ryan. Why is that?"

"Because God really means it. 'Don't fret.' You should read that Psalm. It might help you a lot."

Out of the mouths of babes.

I'd had quite a bit on my mind, and I'd done a bit of fretting. As Ryan tried to tell me, none of my fretting was really necessary. None of it helped anything. All of it was sin. (Originally, I wrote that it was "probably sin" but realized that, if God said do not do it, disobedience to that command was sin.)

I repented, but, over time, my concerns piled up once more and I fretted again.

I'm not talking agonizing, terrified, frantic worry. I "just fretted", but Psalm 37 strictly forbid it. "Fret not." How much plainer could it be? I repented again.

Last week, I had accumulated a mountain of concerns. My son, Ryan. Sam. Ministry. Spiritual warfare. Finding ministry partners. Making prayer cards. Connecting with senior citizens. Getting updates from missionaries. Fundraising. Sam's swallowing. My town. Vandalism at the park. Our sidewalk grant application.The list seemed endless. I was about to drown in concern. (AKA fretting)

I was like Martha (sister of Mary). Concerned about many things when only one thing was needful. You might think I'd remember Martha, but no. I didn't.

Fretting is exhausting work, and, by Sunday morning, I was worn out. I settled in for quiet time and got serious. "Lord, You have to give me some clear direction. I don't know what to do. I'm just worn out with worrying about all this, and I don't know what to do about any of it. Forgive me. Please speak to me today."

That seemed like a prayer God would want to answer, so I headed to church with expectation.  I needed an answer, and God was sure to give it before the day was out. 

Pastor Scooter frequently delivers the very word I've needed to hear, often before I ask God for it, so I expected an 11:00 delivery time. You can't imagine how surprised I was in Sunday school when my "word" arrived early.

"Let's turn to Acts 5," Steadman Harrison (my Sunday School teacher and CEO of Global) told us.

I missed a good bit of what he said after we turned there, because my answer was written in the margin of my Bible, just waiting for me. It had been there for years. Literally. 

"When God wants to do something, there is no demon in hell strong enough to stop Him. My emphasis needs to be on OBEDIENCE, and not warfare."

While Steadman taught with enthusiasm, I had a silent conversation in my heart with our Lord. 

"Just obey? That's the plan?"

"Just obey. That's not all the plan, but it's the part you're supposed to do. I've got the rest."

"So... you're talking about the prayer project with the senior citizens?"

"Yep. And the other things I've said. You just do what I've told you to do already. I can handle the rest."

I don't really want to admit this last part, but I might as well. "You don't need me to help you with that?"

I'm a little surprised about this, but God chose not to dignify that question with an answer. 

I gave Him the answer He wanted. "Okay."

It was what He'd been waiting to hear from me during the weeks I'd spent fretting. I quit trying to figure it out and simply committed myself to doing what He'd said. 

The peace I gained with that decision was monumental. 

There's great freedom in simple obedience, especially when it's not complicated with fretting. 

To make the issue of fretting perfectly clear, God has spoken very clearly in His Word. It's not from Him. We are not to do it. It's sin.

Because of my Sunday epiphany, I've altered my schedule. I still start my day at 5 am, and, whether at Global or working from home, I still have long hours. What's different is the self-imposed pressure to figure out God's plan and my part in it or to try to orchestrate the outcome I think He wants.

It's God's job to reveal the plan. My job is to seek Him. If He wants me to do something, He'll let me know. The Holy Spirit is an expert at conviction. 

Today, let's stop fretting about the concerns in our lives, give those concerns to God, and accept the peace He so freely offers. When we do, we'll find that peace doesn't come alone. It brings joy and contentment, as well.

"...do not fret, it leads only to evildoing." Psalm 37:8 nasb

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: What Becoming A Missionary Taught Me About Myself
#peace #worry