Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Inefficient Thoughts

It’s January, the time when we think of a lot of things we’d like to accomplish during this brand new year. We’re all too familiar with the usual thoughts of losing weight, exercising more, keeping our house cleaner, or always having a smile lighting up our face. Or we may go the spiritual route and decide to fast weekly, read our Bibles daily, and pray every hour. While these may all be good ideas, that’s usually as far as they go. They simply ricochet from one side of our brain to the other, zinging around looking for a place to land but not having much luck.

Unfortunately, other kinds of thoughts find a couple brain cells jutting over a vast crevasse and manage to hang a hammock and rest a while, swinging back and forth in the breeze. Thoughts of our inadequacies or weaknesses. The never-ending list of our responsibilities and obligations. The "shoulds" and "oughts" of our lives.

And then there’s the unseen presence that is out to paralyze us. It fills our minds in the quiet of the night when everyone else in the house is asleep, their bodies relaxed, their breathing slow and easy. It’s the giant monster of worry that hides in our bedroom closet or under the bed, waiting to grab us as soon as we relax.

You’ve been there, I know. You’re about asleep in your slippers when you finally hit the mattress, and just as you’re ready to become a citizen of La-la Land you think of something that makes your heart pound harder than a rock musician on the drums, and your skin vibrate more lively than Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame on the bass.

WORRY. A five-letter word that can wreak havoc on our lives. A word that can start as a legitimate prayer concern before butting trust out of the way. Worry steals joy and peace, replacing them with endless churnings of concern and anxiety.

Corrie Ten Boom said, "Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear."
That reminds me of when I was a kid and would open the top of the washing machine to watch the agitator in the center whirl the dirty clothes around. There was something nearly hypnotic about the action—clothes and soap bubbles spinning back and forth.

That’s what worry looks like—fear in the midst of agitated chaos. Our mind spins as we try to work out solutions to our concerns, but we’re really visiting the same territory over and over. We somehow believe it’s our responsibility to come up with the right answer; to work our way out of whatever situation we’re facing.

Inefficient thoughts can’t exist in the same space as trust in God’s involvement in our lives. Psalm 46 says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear." Later in the chapter we are told to "be still, and know that I am God."
Stillness refers not necessarily to the lack of movement of our body, but I believe, even more, to the state of our mind, heart, and emotions. We can learn to be so focused on Christ and His promises to us, that nothing moves us from His peace. We are still. We are centered on Him instead of fear and worry.

May this year be one of much growth for each of us. May we follow Paul’s directive in II Corinthians 10:5 and "bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."


Susan Sloan said...

Worry: a 5 letter monster! What a perfectly apt description of the troubled and endless thoughts that bonce around in my mind, blur my focus and render me ineffective in reaching out to others as God would have me to do.
Please pray for me for personal boldness, concertrated effort to witness daily and direction from God as I seek to put Him first each day.
Much of my 'worrisome' nature, I learned while growing up. There were 6 vhildren in our family, I was #3 and the oldest daughter until age 10 when my baby sister was born. That put me smack in the middle of childcare and daily chores and I began to carry more than I needed to at a very young age.
Being saved at 16, I started to claim Romans 8:28 as my life verse: "All thiings work together for good to those who love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.'
Later on in life, I've come to appreciate the wisdom of Prov. 3:5-6; Ps. 145, Jeremiah 29:11-12 and Phil 4:6-8.
My daily prayer is: Lord, mold me and make me into the servant daughter you would have me too be.

Robin Johns Grant said...

Yep, you've certainly summed up a typical January here. I know God is not a God of chaos, but of order. In the midst of chaos, I've often prayed based on that thought--prayed for him to make order out of the mess in my thoughts and plans. And he does. Funny I hadn't thought of that lately, though. Thanks for the reminder.

Sherrie Ashcraft said...

Thanks, Susan and Robin, for leaving your comments. I think it's a topic most of us can identify with. Susan, I'm the oldest of five and often bore the responsibilty that entails. There is that natural bent to think we have to carry that responsibility on into adulhood and solve everyone's problems, as well as our own. I'm not much of a real worrier, I don't think, but I'm a planner, and thoughts of what need to be done the next day, or month, can keep me awake. Prov. 3:5,6 is my life verse.I like your daily prayer!

Robin, the need to make order out of chaos is a deep one! I find it extremely hard to get every area of my life in line at the same time!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Susan Sloan pastors wife said...

Hey, Anonymous! You hit the nail on the head when you said "it just keeps getting better and better!'
Do you know the chorus by that title? It's really great, too! Thanks for your hard work, Sherrie and Christina!
Susan Sloan

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