Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).
Marnie and I had lived in our home here in Bethlehem for more than two years, and there were still boxes sitting in the house that hadn’t been touched since the day they came off the moving truck.
You have to ask: if a box has been sitting the house for two years and you haven’t bothered to open it, is there anything in it that you really need? Good question. Perhaps in an effort to answer that question, or (more likely) because she had grown weary of looking at them, my wife plowed into several of those boxes on a mission to get rid of the clutter.
In one of those boxes we found a Christmas wish list. For years we took our kids to the same place for the annual visit to Santa, and as you waited you could write out your wish-list. I don’t know if that was simply a strategy for passing time as you stood line, or if it was meant to expedite the conversation with Santa, or possibly both. Somehow, we had managed to keep a list from years ago, letters printed large and crooked in my son’s young handwriting.
Typically, our wants and wishes are connected to Christmas. Just as often, we assume that children are the ones who are most aware of those wants and wishes. And yet, we all know that our wants and wishes don’t go away as we grow older. They may change, but they never disappear.
I can only speak for myself, but here’s something I know to be true about my grown-up wish list. The things that I’d put on it can’t be bought with money or found in a mall or ordered on Amazon. And what’s more, I sense my wants and wishes more at the beginning of a new year than I do at Christmas.
Wish List for 2020
At the start of a new year, we are inclined to set goals and make plans or ‘resolutions.’ This isn’t a bad practice. There’s definitely value in being specific about what you’d like to see happen in your life in the year to come, whether that be in your career, your health and fitness, or your family life.
But if we’ll look closer, all our goals and resolutions are rooted in something deeper. These things reflect a yearning of soul – our hopes and dreams and desires for the year to come. That leads to a question. Right now, in the early days of 2020, what do you want? What would your best life look like?
Maybe you want your kids to be happy and thrive. You might want to find work that you love, or you want to be appropriately recognized for the work that you’re doing now. You might want to be married, or you might want the marriage you’re in to be better. Maybe you want to be well, or your praying for someone you love to be well.
Again, maybe this is just me, but far too often I find that my wants feed my worries. It might be because I see that what I want isn’t happening, or I’m thinking it won’t happen, and then what if this or what if that, and so on. You know how it goes.
We worry about the kids. Seems they never outgrow our parental skills in worrying about them.
We worry about work or the lack of work, and then all the money issues connected to those worries.
And that might lead to worries about retirement.
We worry about health – staying healthy, or getting healthy, or seeing a doctor and then hearing what the doctor might tell us.
Somehow our deep yearnings can end up stoking our anxieties. But the God who created us and loves us never intended that we live as anxious people.
Anything and Everything
This brings us to a basic spiritual practice, something I’d like to invite you to work on in the coming year. We’ll spend a few days this week listening to the apostle Paul’s very wise and practical counsel on how to wage war against our worries.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). I don’t remember ever intentionally memorizing this verse of scripture – but I know it well and I’ve spoken it often, usually to myself.
The challenge of course, as with all scripture, is getting what we know in our head to move into our heart and shape the way we actually live our life. That’s what I’d like to work on this week and in the weeks to come.
As we get started let’s focus on two words from the text: anything and everything.
First, anything. This word is placed in the sentence in such a way that all things are off limits for our anxious worrying minds. The Bible doesn’t allow us to reserve one or two big-ticket items for worry. We don’t trust God with all the little things but set aside the major things to fret over and gnaw on with our thoughts. For those who follow Jesus and live daily in fellowship with God, worry is always out of place with regard to all things.
Second, everything. This word is placed in the sentence to tell us that nothing is off limits when it comes to prayer. Pray about everything. No matter how small, no matter how big, no mater how trivial, no matter how significant. Everything that finds its way to your mind should eventually find its way to your prayers.
Don’t be anxious about anything. Pray about everything. And then – notice what is promised. God’s peace pervades your life, both thoughts and feelings.
As you face the coming year, what is your deep yearning? And what is your nagging worry? Start today and offer the worry as a prayer. We’ll explore further how to do this tomorrow.
Gracious God, at the beginning of this year we want to trade our worries for your peace. But our anxious habits are deeply engrained, and our thoughts so easily drift to shadow places. Grant us grace to practice prayer as a daily weapon against worry. Help us to do that with everything, knowing that you can be trusted with anything. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
2 thoughts on “Don’t Let Your Wants Feed Your Worries”
Mark,You are ever so wise. . . Thank you for this sublime devotion. I plan to share it with others who need to read your words. May I say again, we still miss you two!Love, Betsy
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Good morning Mark,
I am so glad to have finally found your devotions again, after you and Marnie moved to PA from Peachtree Pres, I struggled to find a daily devotion that spoke to my heart in the same way. I still have bookmarked your devotion “Do you want to be well” about the invalid man at the pools that Jesus speaks to… there is so much in that message, both scripturally and your explanatory words as well. In fact, I have it tagged in my notes as “Read until I am focused forward,” something I’ve humbly realized is a daily task, and not something I can check off once and for all for all the fears, hurts, worries that keep me on my matt proverbially speaking.
Anyway, thank you so much for your devotion. It supports, challenges and encourages so many more people than you may realize.