I am worried about some things these days. Now before you all start offering me your ‘5 steps to stop worrying’, understand that I have heard countless sermons on the subject. I have probably preached some of those sermons too. But if I am honest, it is really hard for me to let go of worry once it has grabbed me. Once the issue or scenario presents itself to my brain, I cannot help but think about it over and over. I have tried repressing the thoughts and even distracting myself with varying degrees of success. But eventually, I come back to the same place of worry. This is not everyone’s story, but it is mine.
Since I am being honest about this subject, let me get one more thing off my chest. I think people who are good at not worrying are strange. Aren’t there things worth getting worried and stressed about? If I am standing in an airport security line that is not moving and my flight leaves in 15 minutes, it bothers me, If my credit card gets declined for a $5 charge, my pressure goes up. And yes, if something is happening to a family member or friend that I have no control over, you better believe I will be a bit tense. Doesn’t responsibility, affection, and dreaming come with a good amount of worry? At some point, don’t we all find ourselves in the worry spot? I think we do, and I just wanna go ahead and say that I get you.
With all that said, I am a Christ-follower. So I take the words of Jesus in the Scriptures seriously. When He says, ‘do not worry’, I know that means something. When Paul encourages us to ‘be anxious for nothing’, I take that advice to heart. But how? How do we avoid worry and anxiety over the things that really matter to us? Am I being asked to deny the significance of specific issues and struggles for the sake of finding peace. If these things are really important — if they truly matter to us — is suppression and forgetting the only path to a resolution?
I was recently inspired by the parable in Luke 18. Jesus tells a story about a persistent widow who knocks on the door of a dishonest judge. The judge decides to give this woman justice because she keeps bothering him with her case. This parable is about prayer, but it is also about something else. You have to ask yourself, ‘would this woman have been so persistent with her issue if she did not care (dare I say worry) about the outcome?’ I think we have to agree that it was probably worry, stress, anxiety and/or pressure that kept her knocking at the judge’s door. Jesus’ implicit message in this tale is that the persistent widow is our example of an acceptable prayer life.
Many of us struggle with consistency in our prayer life. Whether you are a morning or a night person, many find it hard to devote regular amounts of time to prayer. I confess that sometimes those devoted times of prayer have become stale. I have felt as though I had nothing to say to my Creator. But as soon as I get up having fulfilled my obligation of 20 or 30 minutes, the worrying restarts. Why? Because somewhere in the course of my life, I learned that prayer was supposed to be somewhat tranquil and articulate. If I really brought my worries to my prayer time, they would be loud, melodramatic and messy. I feel like I would be interrupting the angelic choir if I allowed my worries to infiltrate my prayer time. Not to mention what prayer time could turn into if I allowed my stress to show over the course of days or weeks. It would definitely not be quiet time anymore.
But what if worry was an invitation into prayer? What if worry was our soul’s way of saying, ‘we need to spend a ton of time talking (and crying and shouting) to God about this’. What if worry was the necessary energy needed to spiritually sprint towards the throne of God. If Jesus is suggesting we should be like the persistent widow in the parable, then we will need more than a cool devotional to keep us on our knees for prolonged periods of time. If we are to protect these times from becoming ritualistic and dry, then we will have to allow those raw, untamed emotions to surface as we pursue and seek God’s will.
Be reminded that while the judge was annoyed with woman, Jesus never tires of our prayers. In fact, consistent prayer that is saturated with real emotion has a way of deepening our faith and revealing God’s passion for us. Prayer that has been entered into because of worry eventually reminds us that God has always been (and will continue to be) more invested in our lives than we’ll ever be. Luke 18 prayer is spiritual activism that will not stop until the Righteous Judge has answered. Jesus delights in prayer like this.
Most of us are worried and stressed about many things these days. It may be time for us to learn from the persistent widow. As Psalm 62 says, we should pour out our hearts to Him. Even if nothing changes about the situation, engaging the deep discipline of authentic prayer (brought on by worry) will strengthen our souls in some miraculous ways over time. I invite you to see your worries as an invitation to run loudly and persistently to Jesus in prayer. Do it today.