Whoa There, Thoughts!

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I mentioned to you a few days ago about how my thoughts were keeping me up at night. It’s like a vitamin commercial I saw a few days ago where this man walks into a dark room full of bright neon signs. The signs read all kinds of familiar thoughts, and one by one, the man turns off the lights. When he reaches the last—and only unlit—sign, he pulls the cord, and the words, “Nighty Night” light up. What a perfect picture of my nightly battle to calm my mind and get to sleep.

The trouble for me is that my mind not only spins at night; it turns all day long. I find it difficult to focus on the task at hand because my mind is already fretting about what comes next or if the next paycheck will arrive before the next bill or if scientists are going to discover that lettuce is fattening. You know, the usual. The psalmist who penned Psalm 94 understood the turmoil of various thoughts yet still found comfort and delight in the Lord.  

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.
— Psalm 94:19

The multitude of thoughts. Yep, I get that. Delight of the soul? Well, sometimes, but not typically when my thoughts are on a never-ending roller coaster. Weariness? Sure. Fatigue? Absolutely. Delight? Is that even possible?

It is, and I discovered the secret in my daily Bible reading yesterday. Well, I say it’s a secret, but the truth is, it’s in the Bible in full view of all who read it. Somehow, I’ve just missed the power of this verse until now. But now that I’ve seen it, this verse will join my ever-growing list of favorites.

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.
— Proverbs 16:3

As I read through Proverbs 16 yesterday, verse three jumped out at me. I read it again and again, then looked up the various words of the verse to gain their full meaning. I’m so glad I did!

The word “commit” means to roll (which is very similar to the word “cast” in I Peter 5:7). As Christian author, Lysa Terkeurst put it, “This may sound unusual, but consider this: we roll heavy things. We roll things we can’t carry. We roll things too awkward or burdensome to bear alone.” She’s right. To commit our works to the Lord means to roll them on Him and allow Him to carry them. We don’t have to.

The word “works” is no mystery. It refers to our actions, deeds, or paths. When we commit our works to the Lord, we’re essentially handing Him our calendars and to-do lists. We’re saying, “Lord, there is too much here for me to handle, so I’m giving it to you. Please lead me to do what You want me to do when You want me to do it, and please help me live in Your strength today. Thank you for reminding me I don’t have to face today or any other day on my own.”

We could stop right there and be blessed, but we haven’t even gotten to the best part. The verse says if we commit our works unto the Lord, our thoughts will be established. So, what exactly does that mean? I’m so glad you asked!

The word “established” is defined as “to be firm, stable, or fixed; to be prepared, arranged, or settled.” Oh, hallelujah! That’s what I want. I desire my thoughts to be stable, fixed on the Lord instead of my to-do list or my troubles. I would love for the Lord to prepare and arrange my thoughts instead of allowing every idea that pops into my head to have free rein. And did you notice the last word in the definition—settled? That’s my word for 2019. Coincidence? Definitely not!

No wonder the psalmist could say he found delight in the comfort of the Lord despite the multitude of thoughts within him! He’d discovered this “secret” as well. It would seem he had learned how to roll his problems, decisions, and worries onto the Lord thereby allowing God to direct, settle and stabilize his thoughts. And if he can do it, my friends, then we can too.

Are you seeking comfort today? Are your thoughts keeping you up at night and running you ragged during the day? If so, I invite you to roll those burdens onto the Lord. Better yet, He is encouraging you to do just that. The outcome is a lighter load and a brighter spirit. Who doesn’t want that, right?

God Urges Us To Be Careful For Nothing

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As I leaned into Jason’s sweet embrace, he commented, “I can feel the muscles in the back of your neck twitching. That’s nothing but stress.”

He wasn’t being cruel or argumentative. He was making a point. I need to learn to relax. The terrible thing was I didn’t even realize I was stressed at the moment. Sure, there’s been a lot on my plate lately, but I thought I was handling it all pretty well with the Lord’s help. But when Jason pointed out my stressed-out muscles, I realized I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I was. While I was functioning and completing my tasks, my thoughts were still full of anxiety. At that point, I did what I usually do when I realize I’m stressed out—I started stressing about my stress!

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
— Philippians 4:6

The word “careful” in this verse means “anxious.” So, God is telling us, “Be anxious for nothing. Don’t fret about anything. Don’t stress. Don’t worry.” Does anyone else find this extremely difficult?  

I often read that verse and say, “But Lord, you don’t understand. I have so much to do, and time is running out. I don’t feel as well as I could, and that’s slowing me down even more. Oh, and I thought I had enough money in the bank to pay that bill, but it turns out I didn’t, and now the bank account is overdrawn. And. . .”

Sound familiar? There’s just a couple of problems with my well-meaning (and heartfelt) excuses. First off, God does understand. We made that clear yesterday. Nothing is hidden from Him, including the source(s) of our anxiety. He gets it, probably even better than we do. But also, if we’ll look at our key verse one more time, we’ll see it doesn’t matter what our circumstances are. Be careful for NOTHING. Or let’s turn it around and say, “Don’t be anxious about anything!” Don’t be anxious about your to-do list. Don’t fret about your health. Don’t worry about money. Don’t stress about anything.

That’s a tall order! In my warped thinking, if I don’t stress over it, it won’t get done. But the truth is, stressing has never helped anyone. Anxiety only robs us of sleep, our health, and eventually our sanity. No, worry isn’t the answer. So, what is? When life feels overwhelming, and we can’t figure out if we’re coming or going, how can we remain calm and peaceful? Fortunately, God tells us in the same verse and the verses that follow.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
— Philippians 4:6-9

Scofield calls this "the secret of the peace of God." According to the above passage, here's how we can stop stressing and live peacefully no matter our circumstances:

1. Don't worry

2. Take it to God in prayer

3. Be thankful

4. Think positive

5. Consistently do what we’ve learned

Instead of being anxious, we need to take the situation to God and leave it there. We can then be thankful for such a loving, caring Father who bears our burdens, and we can trust that He will work all things for our good and His glory. After that, we do what we know to do and stop stressing about what we don’t know. And we repeat that process over and over again.

I won’t tell you it will be easy, especially at first. But it is possible. And the more we practice this plan for peace, the easier it will become. Imagine if this five-step formula was our first response to a crisis instead of our last. How much happier and calmer would we be? Let’s find out!

You Can't Ask Too Much of God

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Do you ever wonder if you’ve asked too much of God? For too many things? For too big a miracle? For too much too often? I know I do. Though I try to incorporate praise, worship, and supplication for others into my daily prayer time, I never seem to run out of requests for myself and my household. Prayers for guidance, strength, finances, and more. Requests that things would work out in this situation or that. Pleading for deliverance from a current trial or for God to give me the grace to wait on His timing.

With my many requests tumbling from my lips, I often stop and think, Have I gone too far? At what point will God throw up His hands and say, “Enough, Dana! You’ve asked for too much!”? But during those times, I think of Gideon. I’m sure you’re familiar with his story, but in case you’ve never noticed, I want to share with you how Gideon tested the limits of God’s grace and sufficiency.

And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again.
— Judges 6:17-18

When the Lord first called Gideon into service, Gideon couldn’t believe his ears. God came to him as he was hiding from the enemy, and now God wanted him to lead his people into freedom from the Midianites. At first, Gideon offered excuses for why he wasn’t the best candidate for the job, but when God didn’t buy the excuses, Gideon tried another tactic. Shew me a sign. Gideon reasoned if God were serious, it wouldn’t be too much to prove it. So, Gideon ran off and prepared a meal which he presented to the Lord. The Lord promptly burned up the offering and then disappeared, leaving Gideon to declare, “Alas, O Lord God, for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.”

At that point, God gave Gideon a task to perform. He was to destroy the altar of Baal and the grove set up by his father. It was risky, but Gideon did it. Still, his doubting days weren’t over. The next thing we know, Gideon was facing the prospect of delivering Israel from the enemy, and his faith wavered. So, he asked for more proof that God was serious.

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.
— Judges 6:36-37

Once again, God catered to Gideon’s request. In the morning, the fleece was wet, and the surrounding ground was dry, just as Gideon had specified. But Gideon still wasn’t convinced (which I totally get!). So, he dared to ask for one more thing.

And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.
— Judges 6:39

I can hear the fear and trembling in Gideon’s voice as he begged, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me. I know you’ve given me two signs, but if you could prove Yourself to me one more time, then I’ll know I can trust You, and I can go forward.” Oh, how I love this about Gideon! He was respectful but honest. Though he desired to trust God fully, he had to admit he wasn’t quite there yet. And God, in His great mercy, gave Gideon another sign—the dry fleece.

If the story ended there, we would have enough evidence to assure us we can’t ask too much of God. Even when He’s done enough, He loves us enough to give us more to help us grow in our knowledge and faith in Him. But there’s more to the story, and it’s my favorite part.

Fast forward to Judges 7. God had taken Gideon’s army and whittled it down to a mere 300 men. Knowing they were facing an army of 135,000 well-trained soldiers, Gideon was likely terrified and once again doubting the will of God here. How could it be possible for such a small band of men to defeat a mighty army? And who was he to lead them? He was a farmer, not a soldier. Yes, I have no doubt the fear and anxiety rolled over him, but Gideon dared not ask for another favor from God. After all, the last time he did, he said it would be the last time. No, he wouldn’t ask God to prove Himself again. So, he did the next best thing. He spied out the enemy.

And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.
— Judges 7:12

Wonderful! The Midianites had joined forces with the Amalekites and all the children of the east, and they stretched out across the valley like sand on the seashore. Not exactly the boost of confidence Gideon needed, was it? But God was watching out for Gideon and was about to give the timid leader something he didn’t even ask for—assurance.

And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host. And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.
— Judges 7:13-15

I love that! God knew Gideon was afraid. He knew the poor fellow was beginning to have doubts but was too scared to ask for another favor. So, God gave him what he needed without Gideon even having to ask. Why? Because that’s just the way God is. He loves to give to His children. Exceeding, abundantly above all we could ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)

So, does God tire of hearing our requests? No, I don’t think so. Now, I will say He probably grows weary if we only come to Him when we want or need something, but otherwise, I think He loves to hear from us. It gives Him a chance to prove His love and care for us. It also offers him an opportunity to show His willingness to go beyond what we could ask or think by giving us what we need when we need it whether we’ve asked for it or not.

Can you ask too much of God? Nope! When we come to Him with genuine love and a sincere desire, He can’t help but shower us with blessings. It’s just His nature. It’s Who He is!