Sunday Scripture and Book Talk
How much does worry weigh? By my observation, enough to round the shoulders, slow the step, and lengthen the daily darkness. Worry absorbs energy, steals sleep, and dampens conversation.
My time spent in public school classrooms warns me that even our children are not immune to worry, for it’s not unusual to receive a list of names as part of my sub plans: “These children experience anxiety which may be heightened today because you are here and I am not.”
Funny how the unexpected can slip right past my own expert worry filter. The steady stream of news and the frequent use of the word unprecedented have given even the most steady and trusting among us good reason to wonder what’s next. Things I can’t predict and things I can’t control sneak into the room like a Monday morning substitute teacher, standing there taking lunch count and setting her coffee mug down on the teacher’s desk as if she belongs there!
No Judgment for Worry–Just an Alternative
When I read the Apostle Paul’s words about worry in Philippians 4, I exhale in relief, because I don’t detect a wagging finger or an air of judgment in his words. It sounds as if Paul (and Jesus!) understand that there are plenty of reasons to be anxious on this broken ground, plenty of opportunities to fret. The good news sounds even better when it comes to me as an alternative strategy to worry:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
When I read it through the Romans 8:1 filter of “No Condemnation,” this verse becomes a life-giving alternative to the weight of worry.
- Turn your worries into prayer. Redirect every word of that internal conversation toward the God who is always listening anyway. Present all the dreaded alternatives, all the what-ifs, and all the horrendous possibilities to God, and ask for his help, his comfort, and his peace. Tell him what you need, whether it’s a material, tangible resource or simply the grace to keep moving forward in a day that looks too hard.
- Thank God for everything. “Lord, we don’t know what you’re doing here, but we thank you because we know you are good.” I’ve heard my husband pray words to this effect so many times that I’m starting to learn the lyrics of faith myself. The intersection of God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness is a safe place to stand when worry gnaws around the edges of our hearts.
If worry is all you’re carrying in your hands today, offer it to Jesus. He promises to bear the weight with you, and here’s the promise he makes to those who offload their worry into prayer: “You will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
By grace, you can choose to let prayer and gratitude serve as faithful guardians for your heart whenever you are tempted to worry!
The good news sounds even better when it comes to me as an alternative strategy to worry. The intersection of God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness is a safe place to stand when worry gnaws around the edges of your heart.Tweet
Now Let’s Talk Books
I’m thankful when I can share solid reading material that reinforces my own teaching in a Sunday Scripture post! This week there’s something for little people as well as an adult-sized resource, and keep reading for details about how you can win your own copy of Isaiah and the Worry Pack!
Isaiah and the Worry Pack by Ruth Goring
If the little people in your world carry a load of worry, introduce them to Isaiah and the Worry Pack and learn together from Isaiah’s bedtime heart-to-heart with his mum. Adult-sized problems can steal sleep from kid-sized hearts and minds, but surprising things happen when children learn to hand their worries over to Jesus.
Using guided imagery, author Ruth Goring models a spiritual conversation between a fictional parent and child as a first step for real-life parents and children to engage their own imaginations in fruitful discourse with God. Probing a worried feeling until we discover its source and then give it a name; framing an open conversation with Jesus in a peaceful setting; offloading anxieties by listening for Jesus’s voice in Scripture are all onramps to rest and peace.
As Isaiah drifts weightlessly into a tangerine-tree dream, his worry blocks have shriveled up and his pack is empty. Vivid illustrations by Pamela Rice bring this part of the story to life.
Best of all, gospel-based hope does not require a happy ending in which all of Isaiah’s troubles get fixed through magical solutions. Instead, readers see the example of a willed response to God’s powerful goodness as the path away from anxiety.
If you are already a newsletter subscriber, watch your inbox for details about how you can win a FREE copy of Isaiah and the Worry Pack! If you’re not a subscriber yet, by all means sign up below. I’ll provide instructions for entering the drawing in my January 20th newsletter—along with a link to my brand new, free Guided Meditation on Psalm 46 that will help you war against anxiety in your own daily life.
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When Strivings Cease by Ruth Chou Simons
Worry can lead to ceaseless striving, and, conversely, our culture of never-good-enough leads to worries of the worst kind.
A memoir embedded in strong Christian encouragement, When Strivings Cease sheds light on the reason we’re all so tired, why we keep pushing when we know our salvation is all of grace, and therefore, an accomplished fact. We’re safe—and yet we still feel unable to measure up.
Ruth Chou Simons is an established author, artist, and entrepreneur, and yet she admits to her own fatigue and great discomfort with our culture of hurry and worry. What makes all the difference and what changed her perspective is an understanding of God’s grace, its comprehensive ability to secure her identity and to establish her adequacy before God. Without this bedrock, any attempt to soothe the fear of not being enough with achievement or self-righteousness will sap the joy out of whatever gifts we exercise.
Simons writes from the context of her experience as an Asian-American woman, growing up with Chinese-speaking parents, singing church songs in Mandarin, and now raising a gaggle of six sons. Whatever challenging circumstances form your particular context, allow them to drive you to a pursuit of truth in Scripture until you become convinced that “self-righteous striving is more hopeless than you want to believe, but grace is more life-transforming than you realize.”
For me, this means valuing the transformative more than I value image management, pursuing spiritual depth more than the trappings of success. My striving will cease—and yours will too—when we acknowledge by the way we live that God’s mercy and grace are truly enough, and definitely more effective in bringing peace and joy than any effort we could have expended on our own.
It’s a joy to come alongside you with solid reading material to strengthen your faith-walk, your parenting, and your confidence as a Christ-follower! Thank you for reading and for sharing this resource with others.
Holding you in the Light,
My striving will cease—and yours will too—when we acknowledge by the way we live that God’s mercy and grace are truly enough.Tweet
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Many thanks to InterVarsity Press, Thomas Nelson, and NetGalley for providing copies of these books to facilitate my reviews, which are, of course, offered freely and with honesty.