Walking Home

I was walking home from the grocery store on Monday night, and I was overcome with a strong, almost irresistible sense of worry. Let me give you the context, and then I will tell you the outcome.

 

A Safeway store is near our home and for the 17 years we have lived near the store we have walked there often to get items we could easily carry home. It has usually been refreshing to walk and for the most part we always returned home with the items we intended to get and usually a few more.  I had been to the store for a few essentials and I noted the empty shelves where for years the sense of plenty had been clearly instilled into my mind. It never occurred to me in the past that one day I would walk into this store and would see lots of empty shelves. The shelves were so empty (as if they could be any emptier) that I took a picture with my phone.

 

Again, I note the past and the fact that I have never taken pictures of the shelves when they were full. When I was paying for the items the cashier now (for obvious reasons) set behind a plexiglass shield,  was asked a question by the lady in line (6 feet away, behind the red duct tape on the floor marking the new social distance standard, mind you) behind me if the store had any toilet paper either in stock or on the way in a future shipment. The cashier replied, “It’s not that we don’t have any, it is that we cannot get any.” I paid and bid the cashier, who looked like she was more than weary of those types of conversations, a good evening.

 

As I began walking home what would normally be a refreshing walk turned into a dark walk. I was unprepared for the sense that would soon envelope me. Questions that I did not ask were suddenly on my mind. What is going to happen to us? Where is all this going? Is there worse to come? They kept coming, faster and more intense. I thought I would just burst into tears. Worry had found me. I did not go looking for it. It was looking for me. I will say the Devil is crafty. He took the reality of the empty store shelves and the momentary conversations at the checkout counter and formulated a doom that shook my confidence. It happened really fast too. I had only walked about two blocks before I felt like dropping my grocery bags and running away until I could run no more. In my current state of fitness that would be about three more blocks. So I kept the bags and I walked on feeling worry permeate my mind and being.

 

Don’t get me wrong; worry is not a new experience for me. I have worried plenty of times before and I am sure I will do it again in the near future. Can you relate? This particular worry was different. I am not sure I can describe how different but only to say it was on an intensity level I was not sure I had seen in a while. I am capable of instigating worry. I can view my circumstances and begin asking questions or playing out in my mind worst case scenarios. I have done that a lot in my life. I have seen some victory in this area as well. Fear and worry are emotional cousins. My friend Dallas says, “Worry provides the sense that we are doing something about our fear, but this is an illusion.” Dallas also notes Luke 12:25-26 “And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? 26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?”  Worry is fruitless Dallas concludes.

It seems to me that fear and worry come from the same DNA and can be addressed with similar truth. But I digress. This worry I did not create. It swooped down on me like a bird of prey. Here I am enjoying the walk and the nice weather while carrying everything I had on my list and more in my bags and suddenly I am in a full doom and gloom mode. In my mind so many things were going wrong I cannot even recall them all here, but I can tell you they were mentally real and terrible. I wanted to burst into tears. Can you relate at all?

 

The hint of tears was not for pain but for fear. Can I say that part of the thinking that I had that night was to imagine that the store I had just been to reminded me of history lessons where empty store shelves and despair were commonplace in other countries during war and prewar conditions. But we are not in a war, or are we? (Yes, we are, but not just with a virus called Corona.) It was what I focused on that opened a door for worry.

 

By the way, as I write this, I am just now beginning to better understand what happened. The Holy Spirit is speaking to my heart right now and helping me to understand it. Now I can see clearly that by focusing on what was not in the store I had invited worry. Seems like the more we concentrate on what we do not have that we cannot see what we do have. Others have said that better than me in recent days.

 

Worry of the magnitude that I had experienced on Monday night is possible for us all. But is the solution to stop thinking about what I don’t have and only focus on what I do have? If I follow this reasoning, I will be walking more than I want to because I will not refuel my car out of the desire to stop focusing on the emptying tank of gas. Make sense?

 

That night I thanked God for where I live and for what I have. Yet that is not the sum of what blanks out worry. I don’t just erase in my mind the facts around me (empty shelves) and replace that image with the image of full shelves. Both images are true. I will wear myself out trying to do these mental aerobics. I will also be at risk for not noticing what can be signals I need to see if I spend my time hiding the evidence of the curse on this world. In this case the empty shelves. I cannot escape reality. What can I do about reality if I cannot escape it? Complain, but who wants to listen. Pretend, but that will only go so far. Get distracted, that can be messy. What am I to do?

 

So, what is the reasoning I can engage or what action can I take to dispel worry and or prevent it? Let me go back to the Monday walk home. As I was walking and worrying the Lord sent an answer to my worry. I heard the birds singing in the trees and my mind was directed to the great truth of Matthew 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore ye are of more value than many sparrows.” I heard the robins and the sparrows and God reminded me that He was fully engaged in my life. He did not tell me that I would never have pain or that the tally of hair on my head would not change. What He told me was that I was not alone and that He (God) was in control.

You see the whole point of the fear/worry moment Satan was assaulting me with was to get me to think that I was alone. This aloneness was dark and foreboding and conjured images of terrible circumstances and possibilities. Remember it was when Eve was alone that Satan spoke. Getting me to think I am alone is really just a precursor to the additional damage Satan intends to do if I believe his lie and think I am alone. As I walked, it is as though I suddenly awoke at the sound of the birds and the Spirit was able to speak past the noise of Satan’s threats. I think you can relate. How much our Father loves us to keep track of the assaults and send warnings to us. I need to listen for His warnings. I need to know His voice. You see the Word answered my need Monday. God did exactly what He said He would do. John 14:26 “ But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

Now the context of Matthew 10 is Jesus telling His disciples and us that the world hates us as Christians and hates our message of hope (Read 9:35-11:1). It does not feed into Satan’s ability to control things here if we have hope in the Lord. Within the context of Satan’s battle against Christians we have the fear/worry weapons being discharged against us at opportune times. Our shield of defense is the righteousness of Christ applied to us through faith. The arrow cannot find its mark if we have the shield held in front of us. The righteousness of Christ includes what He did and said. Jesus said God is in control and He knows my needs. I can hide from Satan behind that truth. This is the action I need to take and I know you need to take it as well. Get behind the right actions and word of Christ. Hold on to them and know them. They are there to protect you.

This world is cursed so I should expect to see some difficulty and suffering. I live in this world and from what Jesus said, as I live in the world, I will see some suffering too. But I must keep in mind that I will not be alone in that suffering and I have a remarkable hope and comfort in Christ in that suffering. So, if I suffer because of Satan’s hatred to me, it will not be the same as one who has no hope (empty and lonely). My suffering will have an end or result that God will use to further His Kingdom.

This is possible because God is in control. God is in control not to prevent sorrow in a cursed world, but to expand His Kingdom and offer hope despite sorrow in a cursed world. The sparrow still fell, but the Father was right there to acknowledge the value of the sparrow in His creation. The number of hairs changes and they are noted by the Father as part of His intense knowledge of me and the stuff of my life. What can I say, I am known of my Father, does that not make Satan’s lies get the exposure they should have?

The outcome of Monday’s experience for me is that I am now praying for revival rather than just preservation. I continue to pray for healing for those who are affected by the coronavirus and I pray for protection for my family and yours as well as God’s people everywhere because He is especially engaged in His family. I am also praying (because the Spirit led me to) for a revival or awakening to borrow terms from the past to take place in our world. For God’s people to humble themselves before God to be used by Him and for those who have not received God’s gift of salvation to humble themselves before God and be saved. This amounts to the expansion of the Kingdom. God has affirmed this outcome through what I have read and through phone conversations with others. He is doing something bigger than Coronavirus can do.

So, I had a fear/worry situation on Monday as I have had in the past and will have in the future (I am human and frail). God intervened and brought me to see some things I needed to see despite it. Satan gets no praise and God gets glory. Satan is darkness and God is light.

Can I ask you to join me in praying for God to move in profound ways across the world? Let us trust God and wash our hands. Let us pray and witness. Let us listen for His Spirit in everyday life.