Saturday, December 29, 2012

An alternative to worry?

LUKE 2: 41-end CHRISTMAS 1

The wise one ponders great and good
And dwells on things divine
The anxious dwell on anxious thoughts
And they grow inside the mind!

We all know I think, how easy it is to dwell on anxious thoughts.  We don’t need to be reminded to ponder the things that worry us – they’re just there!  But have you noticed too, that the more we ponder them, the bigger they get and the more they take over our thoughts?  Have you ever laid in bed (a very good place to dwell on anxious thoughts!) and worried about the bill you can’t pay, or about your children, or about your job, or about any number of other things that can clamour for and strip your peace of mind?  And the thing is that dwelling on those anxious thoughts actually makes no difference at all to the thing we’re worrying about!  Well, except that it often makes us feel even more anxious.  “The anxious dwell on anxious thoughts, and they grow inside the mind!”  Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ‘care’ about these things, of course we should as responsible people but God also seems to put to us that he doesn’t want us to be people consumed by worry.

Now if that’s the case, that God doesn’t want us to be consumed by worry, then that must mean that he has another way. 
“Ah, don’t worry about it!” How many times have you had someone say that to you when you are anxious about something?  And does it help… not generally!  We can’t just switch it off when someone tells us to.  That’s not what God does – just tell us to stop.  But he always points us towards a way through worry – and it’s a way that is about shifting our perspective.

I once saw a cartoon in a book I was reading (I can’t to this day remember the book, but I can remember the cartoon – of a little man peering up at a huge mountain).  And under the cartoon it said “Don’t fix your eyes on the mountain, fix your eyes on the mountain maker.”  That’s the kind of perspective shift that God points us, his children, to.  If the thing you’re worried about seems to be like a giant mountain towering over you that you can’t see past… well don’t stare at the mountain – it ain’t gonna move! Stare at the one who MADE the mountains – the one who can move mountains!

“The wise one ponders great and good and dwells on things divine.”

Have you ever noticed that when something significant happened to Mary, she made a habit of pondering or treasuring it? 
When an angel appeared to her to announce that she (this unmarried young Jewish woman) was going to bear a son conceived by the Holy Spirit, what did Mary do?  (Luke 1: 29).  “Mary was perplexed, but she pondered what kind of greeting this might be”.  She pondered the words of the Lord brought by this angel messenger.
And after she’d given birth to Jesus, and shepherds had rolled up unannounced having apparently got the news from an angel (and then hosts of praising angels), what did she do? (Luke 2: 19) “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”
And twelve years later when they’d all been up to Jerusalem for the Passover festival and were making their way back home to Nazareth, Jesus had vanished.  Any parent’s nightmare!  They had to head back and eventually found Jesus sitting in the Temple, amazing the teachers with his understanding and answers.  And like any mother, Mary asked him, “Why have you treated us like this? WE WERE WORRIED!”
When Jesus stunned Mary and Joseph with his answer, “Did you not know I’d be in my Father’s house?” and after they got home, what did Mary do? “She treasured all these things in her heart.”

Now it seems to me that we have a pretty good example in Mary.  She could have been a woman consumed by worry, “What on earth is the town going to say when they see the bump?” “What is Joseph going to do when he finds out I’m pregnant?”  “What are people going to think of me when I tell them Jesus is God’s Son?” “WHERE IS JESUS?”  I suspect that Mary did think all of those things at some point but what she dwelt on, what she pondered, was what God was doing.  She didn’t stare at the mountains of potential worry, she stared at the mountain maker, the mountain mover – and she trusted him.
Mary dwelt on the things that God said, Mary dwelt on the things that God was doing, and that I believe is what God wants us to do when anxiety lays itself at our door.

Paul says to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything.” But he doesn’t stop there – just as God doesn’t just say to us, “Ah don’t worry!” Paul went on to say, “BUT in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
And the PEACE OF GOD, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” 
Worry strips away peace – but Paul teaches us that when we are worried we should bring it all to God – specifically, with our requests and with thanksgiving.  In effect what we’re doing is laying that mountain at the feet of the God who is magnificent and wonderful, and sovereign over all, and we are sharing that anxiety with him.  What we’re doing is laying the situation in the safest hands there are in the universe!  Not just with one who listens, but one who can act too.  But the promise that is given is that when you do this peace will return.

Now I can tell you that I’ve had worries plenty of times in my life, but when I’ve actually done this and stopped trying to deal with them all myself, I have felt the peace that God gives – felt the sense of him carrying it.  And somehow had the peace and strength too for whatever the outcome was.
But Paul adds something else too – something that takes us back to Mary’s pondering and treasuring in her heart.  He says “think about ‘these’ things…” What are ‘these things’ that he tells us to think about/to fill our minds with/to ponder? “Whatever is just, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent and praiseworthy… and keep on doing the things of faith… and the God of peace will be with you.”  Peace again.  Our minds need the just and commendable and excellent and praiseworthy to think on – you can’t find a better place for those than in God’s word; but it also means making sure you give yourself a good measure of the good and beautiful in the world and not just a diet of the bad news that can sometimes be all we ponder.

I don’t need to be reminded to worry, but I do sometimes need to be reminded to ponder and treasure all that God is doing, and to fix my eyes on the maker and mover of mountains.  I often do that by sitting down to write to God all the things that are swimming around my mind, and with them to write of all that I’m thankful for.  We’ll each find our own way of pondering in our hearts, as Mary did, but may we not forget and let worry overwhelm us.

The wise one ponders great and good
And dwells on things divine
The anxious dwell on anxious thoughts
And they grow inside the mind!


At March 05, 2014 9:38 am, Blogger Robert Price said...

Tend to agree, mountains are immovable, but as with everything they have a reason for being and possess a creator.
Identifying the creator and dealing head to head with them is the answer, in fact, it is probably the only answer.


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