I have always had an overactive imagination. When I was little I would imagine that all the creepy things lurking in my grandparents dark basement stuffed with old appliances, rows of clothes hanging from the ceiling, and shelves of canned food. Granted in the basement there was a bug-eyed, stuffed bobcat posed to pounce that grandpa had taxidermied himself, but it didn’t take much for me to imagine the other menagerie of disturbing things waiting to pop out and get me whenever I was sent down there to grab a jar of peaches.
My 30God.com entry today is entitled “God took the night shift.” If you’ve got 30 seconds to spare check it out; seeing my crazy bed-head alone is worth it. Now that I’m an adult, the things I worry about popping out at me aren’t so imaginary. An unexpected bill that arrives that there isn’t money saved to pay, a friends marriage that seems to be getting more distant and painful instead of better, seeing the once robust faith of a loved-one turn from doubtful to feeble at best.
I don’t lay awake at night worrying about these things. As my husband can attest I am a championship sleeper and even more so now that I’m pregnant. The fears pop out at me while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store, driving to pick up my son, or when I zone out during meetings. They hijack my thoughts until I get a knot in my stomach, making it difficult to mentally engage in whatever I was doing.
Though it’s been difficult for me to believe and live out, one of the most comforting verses of scripture in the midst of my worries has been Phillipians 4:4-7. The nugget of this scripture that becomes like tiger balm smoothed on my uptight, throbbing heart is verse 6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
When I preached on the book of Phillipians to 200 InterVarsity students during a training camp last year, I shared how verse 7 contains a remedy to our anxieties; prayer and thanksgiving. When most people are stressed, they complain or they talk to anyone who’ll listen about how sucky things are in their lives. I don’t always succeed at giving thanks when I’m worried and stressed, but with God’s help, I try. When I’m stressed about money I give thanks for all that God has provided for me, I recall all the ways he’s provided in the past and pray that I’ll be able to trust him with whatever financial burden is currently happening. When I pray with thanksgiving for friends who are in a difficult place in life it’s a reminder that God is the one who is all powerful, and the source of love not me. I can’t fix broken marriages, heal sick kids, turn doubt into faith. But Jesus can and does!
My friend Ram has a practice of opening his arms into a circle and reciting “put it in a bubble, blow it all away” and as he blows his bubble of troubles away he releases his arms with his palms open and entrusts them to Jesus. I often imagine as I pray, putting my anxieties into a cargo box and shoving them off to sea into a brilliant sunset. The imagination is a powerful thing. If I can imagine any number of the scenarios going poorly or getting worse, surely the God of the universe who gave me my overactive imagination can inspire me to picture what it actually means to trust him, to be thankful and to release my anxieties into his never-ceasing, unchanging love and provision.
If you had to imagine trusting God today with your anxieties, what do you picture? If you’re not the creative type, ask that God would give you a picture that would represent trusting him as you pray. Another simple practice is to turn your hands up as you pray, imagining them filled with your worries and burdens. After you pray with thanksgiving asking God to do only what he can do in these scenarios, turn your hands palms down as a symbol that you are trusting God with your concerns. You may not be able to carry them, but he is able. God never sleeps!