worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Paul must have known that there were some worrying kind of folks at First Church Philippi, or he would have not instructed them to not worry. He may have meant for them not to worry too much because it is natural to worry some. Sometimes we need to worry. If we weren't worried, we may not have gone in for that annual physical. What Paul may mean is that as we worry, we need to pray more, and the prayer will overwhelm the worry. Indeed, we need to pray about every little thing that bothers us. We pray for God to help us, and we allow the act of praying itself to help us think things through. The act of praying itself has tremendous therapeutic value. As children of God we are able to lay all of our burdens down at His feet. Therefore, at the very least, we have to spell out our problems as we see them, name the persons and things that we are concerned about, acknowledge our sins, shortcomings and disappointments and catalog all of the things that we are thankful for.
We need to pray honestly and openly about everything, or let Him in on what we think we need. He already knows what we really need. In prayer we come closest to seeing ourselves as we really are as we confidentially think through a litany of our lives that we hope to improve. Can't you almost hear God chuckle as we come together in that moment of realizing, together as Father and child, how our situation is often times marginally humorous. We can get ourselves into some pickles as we make wrong decisions and end up in ridiculous situations that we never intended or expected. As serious as our situation may be it always helps to look for the comical even when our logical side is saying that this is "no laughing matter." Humor helps us to "look for the rainbow amid the rain."
One of our street people must have come to the realization of her plight when she said, after a few moments of discussion, "Preacher, the shape I'm in, the shape I'm in!" And she was in some pickle: alone, away from home, broke with no place to lay her head. Her situation was serious but in her frank assessment of her plight, I heard her say that, "there will be a way out of no-way, someday."
Prayer also helps us see that there are so many others that are worse off than we are; as when the person with no shoes sees the person with no feet, and then thanks God for still having feet. We could go on and say that even the person with no feet could be grateful that they still have hands, and are still alive. Actually, as long as we have breath we can give thanks. In fact, through the Resurrection of Christ we have deep and abiding hope even in the throes of death. I have shared with many their precious experience of entering the "Valley of the Shadows" with supreme assurance that there would be victory in life's ultimate battle. Our lection seems to be saying to us, "Don't worry about death but pray about it and receive inner peace."
However, we all have some degree of anxiety as we go through stressful times. Anyone working for Lucent Technologies would be anxious about yesterday's news that thousands more employees would soon be laid off. Psychologists often quote studies which rate "stressors" on a scale of one to ten. Things like: unemployment, moving, divorce, serious illness, imprisonment. Public speaking and death are usually listed in various orders of difficulty. One of America's favorite comedians, Jerry Seinfeld, points out that usually public speaking is rated ahead of death; thus, more of his audience would rather be dead than standing up cracking jokes in front of an audience.
Seriously however, events that we cannot control or predict which threaten danger to us are serious situations and it is in a way good that we have a degree of worry about them for it helps us to work through the dangers. We could say that endless worry is not good, but working through worry helps us to pray about it and come to a sense of acceptance, solace and peace. We are also encouraged, by our working on worry, to find a solution. Prayer often helps us to realize that if we will study more we might pass the final exam after all.
Sometimes normal worry can become a serious emotional problem that requires help from a counselor. Panic attacks, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and post-traumatic stress needs to be worked on and worked out. God is a counselor with whom we can speak freely about our problems, but usually it helps to also discuss the situation with one of His agents on earth with a counseling diploma and a calling from God upon their professional career in helping people in need. Sometimes even secular counselors can be used by God to help us even beyond themselves.
There are folks who never fully get over their emotional problems, but do learn to cope with them. I have had friends who often laughed about their obsessive compulsiveness, even as they were rearranging the furniture into a precise pattern. I have learned to deal with my claustrophobia by avoiding tight places. I'll never be one who will enjoy exploring tight caves. I have no worries about tight places as long as I am able to stay out of them. The open M.R.I. was an answer to prayer for me.
So, where are we
on the worrying scale? Are we about to start pulling our hair out? Are
any of us depressed about things? Let's covenant to pray more. Perhaps
one day we will get to the place where we can worry about nothing and
pray about everything.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor