From Worry to Watching
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
— Phil 4:6 (MSG)
Carol and I were tired but excited as we landed in Japan for a week of speaking as well as counseling military wives, missionaries and Japanese women. Our hostess, an older woman exuded warmth, encouragement and most of all, Jesus. Soon after we arrived, she gave us a tour of the simple but lovely missionary house, nestled in the side of a mountain. As we spent time with this dear woman, Carol and I knew we were on holy ground. She invited us to hike up the mountain, assuring me I would be fine in spite of the soft cast on my healing broken leg. We eagerly piled into her old car, excited to soak up every minute of this strange land. We walked along a narrow pathway up the mountain, listening carefully as she pointed out altars and explained the meaning of some of the idols.
She described the spiritual darkness of the Japanese people, who regularly made this trek for the purpose of praying to their idols. Her words and obvious passion for displaying Jesus in this spiritually dark land struck deep into our souls and framed our view of the military harbor below. She said she often came here to pray over the city, imagining Jesus overlooking Jerusalem and crying out, "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem... how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing..." We joined hands and prayed for the upcoming seminars, for each woman who would attend and for the harbor city below, pleading for the Holy Spirit to open hearts and minds to the Savior, our Redeemer. We felt the presence of Jesus. Our journey back down the mountain was a little more somber as we considered the opportunities and privilege of sharing Jesus with needy women, knowing we would never forget those moments on sacred ground, but our adventure was not over.
Our elderly hostess kept up a stream of conversation, describing some of the women we would soon meet. As she inserted the key in the car ignition, she continued talking, but suddenly Carol and I realized she wasn't talking to us. She seemed a little flustered and was talking to Jesus, asking Him how to get home. She could not remember the way. Carol and I looked at each other, more than a little unsettled. This was before cell phones and GPS, and we had no idea where we were or where we were going, and we didn't know the language.
Our hostess started driving, talking nonstop to Jesus, asking Him which way she should turn, interrupting her conversation with Him to ask if we remembered this building or that garden or that sign... Well, no... I admit, when our hostess first started asking Jesus how to get home, I was a little unnerved. Actually, I was a LOT unnerved! What in the world had we gotten ourselves into? I was not in control, I could offer no assistance. I had to sit back and wait for Jesus to lead us through a foreign land to our home, and He didn't disappoint!
As our time in Japan unfolded, Carol and I recognized we were in the presence of a woman who truly saw Jesus as ever present, ever interested in every detail of her life and ever reliable. Our conversations included Him. She acted out what we said we believed — Jesus will never leave us, not ever. We wanted to be just like her when we grew up!
Her life exemplified the call of Paul to the Philippians in Today’s Treasure:
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life
— Phil 4:6 (MSG)
Remember the quote earlier from Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life:
“When you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching. You watch God weave His patterns in the story of your life. Instead of trying to be out front, designing your life, you realize you are inside God’s drama. As you wait, you begin to see Him work, and your life begins to sparkle with wonder. You are learning to trust again.”
There was no pretense in our hostess. If we praised her for her intimacy with Jesus, she looked at us as though she had no idea to what we were referring. Truly, being in her presence was to be in the presence of our Savior. This was a gospel-driven woman, a woman who grasped the redemption of Jesus and knew it was about more than salvation. His redemption transformed her in a way she could not keep to herself even if she had tried. His presence was clear.
Her inclusion of Jesus in every conversation and decision emanated from a response to the gospel — she was a genuine bond slave by choice, gladly looking for the next way she could declare His goodness to others.
Through the years I've thought of this dear sister and friend of Jesus, when like a cat with a mouse, I worry a problem into an obsession, trying to control the behavior of others. Sadly at those times, I've missed the joy of seeing God exchange my worry for watching. Sometimes in those worrying seasons, God flashes up the memory of her, clearly flustered, calling out to Jesus, as though He was sitting right next to her, because He was. The memory encourages me to remember, Jesus is in the car with me, in the kitchen, in the office, in the conversation with the grands, in the meeting with a wounded woman, in my marriage. He is the ever present help, the rescuer, the comforter, and the wisdom I need. When I accept this nudge to remember, a call to pray, I experience the treasure of watching Him unfold plans that are so much better than mine and I learn once more: watching is much more restful and sparkling than worrying - any day. I need to watch more.
LIFE GIVING ENCOURAGEMENT
Recognize becoming like a little child in your relationship to Jesus requires a recognizing of your own inadequacies and a spirit of gratitude that He holds you tightly in His grip when you agonize in prayer. Ask the Lord to show you how hard places can drive you into the heart of Jesus and prayer can shift you from worry to watching.
If you have never tried journaling, try today! Note in your journal the date and name of the person(s) you’re praying for. Be specific in how you pray and ask the Lord to transform the worry in your heart to watching the Lord “show up” in ways designed to turn hearts toward Jesus. Recognize the waiting may be long, but trust the growing dependence on the Lord will break the chains of worry. For more on prayer, check out the book, A Praying Life by Paul Miller.
Lord Jesus, what a priceless gift comes from intimacy with You. May this week be a new beginning of falling more in love with You, falling into Your arms when life falls apart, recognizing the opportunity to experience deeper intimacy with You through prayer.