The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7
To the right of this post, there is a place on the sidebar where you can "Search This Blog." Enter anxiety, or fear, or prayer, or a snippet of the verse above, and hit "Search": you'll see by the number of related posts that come up just how much I struggle with trusting God's good providence in my life.
I've also mentioned in earlier posts how one characteristic of this new season of my life is mid-morning sleeplessness . . . which is not a bad thing, because being awake at 3:00 in the morning provides such a wonderful opportunity to pray without the distractions of a busy daytime house. However, these wee-morning-hour prayer sessions can also be times of earnest spiritual wrestling. I am learning, however, that God is not only awake and ready to talk at 3:00 in the morning, but that He deals so very sweetly with His children in the still darkness of the night.
I lay awake in bed last night (this morning) with some very particular worries on my mind, but also with a very real sense of the nearness and attentiveness of God. "God, thank You so much that You are here and You are listening! Thank You so much that I never, ever have to be alone with the fears that plague my heart!"
Then, the above verse came to mind. "...do not be anxious about anything..."
"But I am anxious, Lord. I am anxious about my tiny daughter who will be flying back home from Japan soon. And I am anxious about my son at boot camp. And I am anxious about my husband's health and his work. And I am anxious about..."
It was a long, long list.
But talking through that list with God last night, I did not feel at all as if He were listening with a frown on His face: "You stupid, sinful, wicked child! Have I not just told you 'Do not be anxious'? And yet that is the very thing you insist on doing!" No, it was as if He was embracing me in loving arms: "Yes, I know you are anxious about Martha, and about Tom. What else are you afraid of right now?" No condemnation (Thank You, Jesus!), just mercy and grace.
Praying through my worries, it felt like I was taking each weight inside my heart and handing it to God. He never flinched. "Yes," my Father assured me, "I care about these things, too. Can you trust me with them, Camille?"
Yes. Yes, I can, because I know how much you love me, Lord. Because You are awake and listening at 3:00 in the morning. Thank You.
And so, with an unburdened heart I drifted off to sleep.
But that's not the end of this story.
This morning after breakfast, I sat down to finish working through the study for our women's brunch tomorrow morning. I like to write out the verses at the end of each chapter of our study - I process things better when I write them than when I read them. I flipped open the study book, looked up the passage written on the page, and began writing on a sheet of loose-leaf paper. . .
"Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? . . . the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father know that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow..." Matthew 6:25-34
And then I looked up and wrote the next Scripture reference on the list, Luke 10:38-42, the passage about Martha and Mary, where Martha was frustrated because her sister was sitting at Jesus's feet instead of helping her serve their guests. The passage includes this verse: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." Camille, Camille! You are anxious and troubled about many things! Be still, my child, and rest at the feet of Jesus.
Now, the funny thing is, this month's women's study is not about worry or about being anxious. It is about setting priorities, about using our time to do what God has given us to do instead of becoming distracted and stressed out by the to-do lists we or others create for us. But as I wrote out those verses this morning, I was overwhelmed with the sweetness of God - that He loves me so much that He wanted to continue our conversation from last night!
I finished the homework for tomorrow's women's study, then put on a kettle of water to make tea. A quick trip to "the library," where I read this excerpt from the June 2013 Tabletalk. Scott Devor, writing on the Christian's adoption into God's family: It is in Christ that we see [the] compassion of the Father most fully expressed. "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32)
Devor continues: As our Father, He gives us all things that we need, and knows them before we ask (Matt. 6:8). This is similar to what Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount - that if earthly (and sinful) fathers know how to give good gifts and care for their children, how much more will our heavenly (perfect) Father give good gifts and care for us (Matt. 7:9-11)?
I've been brought to tears this morning - not because of fear, but because my Father is so very, very good. Almighty God - who has destroyed nations, slain entire armies, who crushed His own Son for my sake - the sovereign, terrible, omnipotent creator and sustainer of the universe, has stooped to love His frightened daughter with such incredible sweetness and tenderness.
I am undone.