Dealing With Worries!

I have always struggled with anxiety. I am an anxious person! I worry a lot! Let me give you a little history about myself.

As long as I can remember, anxiety, worry and fear have been a part of my life. As a kid, I was that nervous shy kid that seemed afraid of everything. I'd go "red as a beetroot" whenever someone would talk to me. Anxiety crippled me in many ways. I wouldn't talk in public, I was afraid to talk on the phone, school and church were incredibly hard and I'd often feel afraid in whatever circumstance I'd find myself. My anxiety and worry was so crippling, that as a result, I missed out on doing a lot of things I wanted to do. 

I was brought up in a Christian family, I went to Sunday School every week and I also attended a lot of church camps as a youngster. One of the requirements was, we had to learn bible verses, and one of very first ones I ever memorized was about "not being anxious", it's Philippians 4:6-7....

“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.”

The trouble was, I'd memorize that verse, but I'd still be anxious. The trouble also was, I'd also feel guilty about my anxiety and condemn myself, because I thought I was disappointing God whenever I was fearful, had an anxious thought or worry came up. I'd convince myself that God was not at all happy with me. 

Why do I tell you all this? Because throughout my life, whether through my younger years, teenage life, young adult life and right up until now, feelings of anxiety and fear have continued to rear their ugly heads. I've had to fight it daily!

Anxiety is something that will rear it's ugly head in all our lives, wanting to take us down, but don't give in to it! We all need to fight it! Tackle it! When feelings of fear and worry take us by surprise, don't slither away and hide, take it on! This is what being strong and courageous is all about, it's about taking on our fears and worries head first. This is also what faith is; tackling our doubts and anxieties headfirst. 

When Glen and Jane first asked me to come here and preach at the Bridge about 2 years ago; to be honest, I was excited, but I was also very anxious. I was worried, nervous and afraid. I remember all the negative thoughts I had driving out here from the Northside, thinking I'd fail, I'm going to let these people down and say something wrong. It would have been easier, at that point, to give up, turn around and say "forget about it". 

Thankfully, I didn't do that; at that point I chose to pray, I chose courage, I chose to take a leap of faith! If I'd chosen to give in and take the easier option, look at all I would have missed out on! I love coming here, I always feel blessed and encouraged and hopefully I'm a blessing to you all too! 

This verse says, when anxiety starts to hit us, don't retreat, pray; "in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." 

When I feel anxious, it causes me to pray. Anxiety humbles me. Anxiety helps me realize I need God's strength, wisdom and guidance. Anxiety and fear helps me realize I can't do it on my own. Anxiety helps me know I'm weak and that I need God. These are good things. 

Instead of giving in or retreating, instead of choosing the easy option, the apostle Paul tells us to pray! He tells us to pray with thanksgiving and tell God all about it! He tells us to be honest and not leave anything out! Prayer is an act of faith. Prayer is an act of courage.

When we pray, a burden is lifted, because we're taking our anxieties, fears and worries off our own shoulders and placing them on God's shoulders; they become His problem and He can handle it. We still need to act, we still need to do His will, but the difference is, by praying, no matter how difficult it is, we can move forward in peace, knowing our problems are now in God's hands. 

Jesus understood this. He knew He was about to be captured, tortured and crucified. This caused a lot of anguish within Him, He begged His Father for another option, an easier option, but instead of running away or giving up, He went into it head first! Jesus knew what He had to do, He knew how difficult His life was about to get and Father God met Him. Listen to what Jesus did, from Luke 22:41-44

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Even though Jesus prayed this intense prayer, where His sweat was like drops of blood and an angel came and strengthened Him, Jesus went on to be captured, tortured and crucified. He chose to act, He chose to pray, He chose faith, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding, guarded His heart and mind as He did the will of the Father and went to that Cross for you and me. 

Jesus knew He had to go through all that awful pain and separation to be resurrected. He knew His actions and choices would save us and that's why He chose not to retreat, rather He chose to pray a very difficult and intense prayer. He decided to put God's interests first. That's why He prayed those words, "not My will; but Yours be done!" 

Jesus was surrendering His will to the Father's will. When we do likewise, when we hand over our will to God's, that will ultimately give us peace. This prayer, "not my will, but Yours be done", gives us the freedom to lay our anxieties at His feet, this is a prayer that will help us move forward, despite the pain and separation we may experience. By praying "not my will, but yours be done!", we're letting God know that we're putting His interests and His Kingdom before our own! By praying, we're believing God has the power to turn our weaknesses, our worries and our fears into something positive for His Kingdom.

I have come a long way since I was that anxious youngster who memorized Philippians 4:6-7, but I also still have a long way to go. I'm here to say that if it wasn't for God, I wouldn't be here right now, I'd probably be cowering in my room right now, playing with razor blades on my wrists and afraid of the world! 

For those who don't know, these days I help manage a homeless shelter on the Northside and it can be very stressful. I'm fully aware that some of the decisions I have to make, can be "life or death" situations; and having that weight on my shoulders can make me very anxious! When I tackle these things on my own or retreat from them, my anxiety often heightens! Even though I know the only answer is to pray and act, too often I forget to pray and put on myself unnecessary burdens. Yet, when I finally do surrender my will to His, the burden is lifted and the peace of God fills me and gives me the strength to move forward.

When we are flooded with anxious thoughts and fears, we need to listen to the words of Paul and follow the example of Jesus. Don't run away and hide, pray, so you'll be able to do what God wants you to do! Believe me when I say; its only God who can give you the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, and guards your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

*A brief summary of why I wrote this: There's a ministry on the West-side of Chicago called Mission:USA; every Tuesday night they have a Church service called The BRIDGE. Their services are open to everybody, but especially those who find it hard to gel in their local congregations! Or to put into cruder terms; a lot of these men and women are ex-offenders, homeless and low-income folk who have felt ostracized and rejected by many churches, so their mission is to be a bridge between prison, the streets and the Church. The Bridge helps these wonderful men and women find churches that will welcome them with open arms.....
And isn't this exactly what the Gospel and the "Kingdom of God" is all about?

Every Tuesday night, The Bridge has a host team from a Church, who greet the guests and provide a meal. The guests anonymously submit questions about their "walk of faith", and staff from The Bridge pick out a relevant question. Meanwhile, they have invited 3 pastors from 3 different churches to come and give a 10 minute sermon each about this specific question or topic. In my humble opinion, this is a great concept and ministry, who's staff is very loving, compassionate and supportive to the "least of these".
This was a sermon preached on 11/3/15, in response to this question;Dealing With Worries!"

Some days, I feel so anxious, and worried, and nervous. Some times it’s about something specific - like finding a job - and other times I’m just worried. I know the Bible says not to worry, and not to be afraid. But that doesn’t help me. And I know God is with me, and that helps a little bit. But what do I do with all this worry and fear and anxiety? How do I make it go away?”

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