Kick Those Anxious Thoughts to the Curb!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition [humble and earnest asking], with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me [Paul, author of Philippians] – put it into practice. And the God of peace [contentment, fulfillment, security] will be with you.”

-Philippians 4:4-9 (emphasis and additions mine)

Goodness, I love this passage. 

And maybe you’ve read it many times – but I like to go back and read it with fresh eyes as though it is an official instruction manual for my heart and mind.

(Maybe that’s just the type-A, always-loves-a-good-plan part of me. But it works!)

I have this passage written down on an index card in the form of a checklist (type-A again, folks!):

  • Pray
  • Give the worry to God
  • Give thanks
  • Think about what is true.

Then, when I start to worry, I pull the card out and remind myself to give my worry to One who loves me most.

Or, in other words, I kick that anxious thought right in the pants! WABAM!!! (Also, can you tell I work with kids? I literally just did the slicing-the-air motion with my arm. I think I might be heavily influenced right now by the new ninja moves I’m learning).

Anyway, I’m not a very practical person – emotions are like, way better (kidding! sort of.) – but sometimes it’s good to have plain old practical advice. Here are two practical heart and mind “ninja moves” (I can’t get over this ninja theme!), that I like to use to kick worry to the curb. 🙂

1. The What-If’s and Worst Case Scenarios

Typically, if I have an anxious thought that won’t leave me alone and preoccupies my mind, it’s a “what-if” scenario.

I’m sure you know the thoughts well:

What if she thinks _______? What if they don’t like _______? What if I do something wrong? What if_______ happens?”

Clearly, these thoughts need a good karate chop.

So when I realize I’m playing a what-if on repeat in my mind, then I look back at my heart instructions from Philippians 4:8:

Paul writes, “Whatever is true…think about such things” (Phil 4:8).

Oh!

Because you know what?

“What-ifs” are not true! That’s why they’re called, “what-ifs” instead of “reality!”

So we shouldn’t even worry about them!

Whew! Praise God, right?

(Because what-ifs can be downright scary. Especially if you’re a creative type like me and think up scenarios for a living).

So why worry and focus on what-if scenarios as though they are true?

Because God, in His lovingkindness, has shown us what to focus on instead.

He instructs us to focus on “what is true.” Not on what we’re afraid might happen.

Karate chop number one, folks!

2. The Power of Giving Thanks

If you’ve read any of my posts, or if you’ve ever heard me talk… pretty much ever, then you know I love the writer, blogger, and photographer, Ann Voskamp.

God has blessed and used her book 1,000 Gifts to truly change my heart and my life.

1,000 Gifts beautifully illustrates the importance of giving thanks to God.

Voskamp says, “It is impossible to feel thankful and anxious at the same time. So we must choose to give thanks.”

Do you see the beautiful gift we have here, friends? That we can choose the path of life instead of the path of worry simply by choosing to give thanks?

And not only is a mindset of thankfulness an open window and fresh air for our hearts, but giving thanks is a command from our Perfectly Loving Father.

Looking back at our heart instructions, Paul writes:

“…with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6).

How beautiful. That very sentence makes my heart sing! Not only are we free to give thanks, but we must give thanks! What a delightful charge.

And yet, how often do we all skip over the “with thanksgiving” part and head straight to the “present your requests to God” part?

…Yeah, me too.

Because when I’m worried, I am not in the mood to focus on things I am thankful for.

And so, I must choose. We must all choose to give thanks in those times of worry.

I also ask God for His help.

And then, quietly but surely, my heart and mind start to think calmly and hopefully while I give thanks.

If you’ve never prayed prayers of thanksgiving when you’re worried, I find it helpful to start off by telling God thank You for the truth about who He is.

We can thank Him for all these things because they are written in scripture, so they are the truest of true:

God is good and faithful (Lamentations 3:22-23),

He is all-knowing and all-powerful (Isaiah 55:8-9, Psalm 139: 1-6),

He is perfectly loving (Psalm 23:6, John 3:16, Psalm 103:8) .

He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

And then, with a heart growing calmer and steadier through the giving of thanks, I love to move on to thank Him for fuzzy socks and cat purrs and then sometimes cat bites and space heaters and chocolate chip cookie dough and the small but beautiful gifts like those.

And I’ve learned through experience that a thankful heart opens the door to let God’s peace come in, displace the worry, and strengthen the faith.

Karate chop number 2! WABAM!!! (I felt the sound effect was warranted again. Thankfulness makes me so happy!! What can I say?)

Encouragement

Friends, if you are like me, and you get caught in the net of worrying way too much, you are in good company!

Remember how Jesus walked on water that one time, and Peter got out of the boat to walk toward him, but then Peter got scared – started to worry – and so then he started to sink? I love how even Peter, a man who is looking right at Jesus, a man who gets to touch Him and talk to Him in person, who is His very apostle, and who is called “Blessed” by Jesus in a conversation with Him, still struggles with feeling anxious. I also love how even though Peter became anxious, Jesus reached out and saved him. Jesus did not let him sink.

Perfect Love.

Perfect Love Who desires us to “Cast all [our] anxiety on Him because He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7, modifications mine).

Now, in a very serious conclusion, if you ever get stuck and are drawing a blank about something to be thankful for, hear this:

“And on that day, God made bacon and said, ‘Men, I love you.’ And then He made chocolate and said, ‘Women, I love you too.’” – Michael.

I like to think God laughs at our jokes sometimes. 🙂

There is ALWAYS bacon, chocolate, and the never-ending love of the God who loves you more than life!

Blessings, peace, karate chops, and bacon and chocolate to you,

Robyn

When plans don’t go as planned.

My name is Robyn, I am type-A, and I am a planner.

Also, I have a 1 year-old cat.

But the cat’s beside the point.

(It’s just that he’s sitting next to me so cuddly and furry and green-eyed I couldn’t help but mention the puff of joy who likes to bite).

But, back to being a planner.

I plan lots of things, joyfully and meticulously, partnered with slow-sipped second cups of coffee and pencils freshly sharpened. (There’s just something about writing things down instead of typing, something freeing and creative and solid, isn’t there?)

I love to-do lists, grocery lists, big calendars, small agendas, lesson plans, outlines, iCalendars, automatic reminders, blank pages just waiting for words to come fill their spaces, and pens of all colors and sizes to further color-code and organize my well thought-out (and foolproof, right?!) plans.

The teacher in me is nodding an enthusiastic YES! ORGANIZATION! PLANS! Is there anything more satisfying in this constantly changing world? (Other than a perfectly crafted and baked doughy chocolate chip cookie, of course.)

But I digress.

Michael loves that I’m a planner. It helps us a lot.

Planning allows us the freedom to see friends because we carved out the time. It helps us organize finances. It helps me organize my writing into a finished piece. It picked out our wedding colors and turned them into a beautiful scene in which we became husband and wife.

I love that I’m a planner, because I think God made me that way for a reason.

But with all strengths come weaknesses, and this is one of mine: It’s easy for me to rely on my plans. In fact, I LOVE relying on my plans, because they act as my security far too often.

(Surely if we’ve planned it, we can’t fail, right?)

 But plans rarely go–ahem–as planned. Pun intended.

So then what, friends? What happens to the security blanket then – when plans don’t work out? When we get hurt or disappointed despite the amount of planning we’ve done to ensure our success and comfort?

I’ve realized recently when I stop using my owns plans as a security and choose to rely instead on the One who knows me and loves me the most, then I start to really live in the fullness of joy, success looks different to me, and comfort is not a necessity.

And yet, here is the most comforting news of all, dear friends! (Yes, even more comforting than an agenda that gets checked off with a brand new hot pink felt-tip pen.)

As lovers and followers of Jesus, we are held tightly together by our Savior, and not by our well-thought out plans (Col 1:17 “…in Him all things hold together,” emphasis added).

Note, this verse doesn’t say “in flawless plans all things hold together.”

Would someone elect to remind me of this every day? Thanks in advance, friends.

And truly, when I really think about it, how many of my plans have actually turned out the way I thought they would?

And yet, am I okay? Am I living fully?

Yes, and a joyful yes.

But, clearly not because of my own plans.

It took a recent change in my well thought-out career plans to throw me into the loving arms of Jesus and lead me to find my worth in Him, and not in my job title nor in my plans.

It’s humbling. It’s nerve-wracking. And it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

Not because of the event itself, but because Jesus had and has His careful hand in every aspect of my life, and when I look and see where I’ve been and what I’m doing now, there’s no doubt in my mind about His goodness and His love for me.

Isn’t it great, this grace? That when our plans don’t work out as we originally hoped, we are held together. We are loved.

And maybe that’s the bigger point of this whole thing than having perfect plans.

 Further, I’ve come to see in a more tangible way that God has His own plans for me – and they are good:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I don’t know what exactly these plans are for me at this moment in clear detail, but isn’t that faith, dear friends? Having the knowledge that God created our very hearts and thus the desires within, and has the loving-kindness to give us our hearts’ desires through His good plans for us?

So what then, referring back to Jeremiah 29:11, when we are harmed? When we are disappointed? When we are hurt? Certainly, these painful things will happen, even when we are smack in the middle of God’s good plans for us. Jesus tells us hurtful things will happen (John 16:33).

Could it mean God’s plans have gone awry? Does it mean that I should, indeed, fold and find security in my own painstakingly thought-out plans as an attempt to protect myself from being hurt?

That is the temptation, is it not?

You understand. In the midst of the plans God has for us and the plans we’ve made for ourselves, certainly we’ve been deeply hurt. We’ve been disappointed. We’ve been hurt by circumstances, by those who love us, by those in charge of us, and by those who hardly know us at all.

So what then, dear friends?

Beautiful news! As Christ’s children, we have a promise in those hard circumstances. This promise from our loving Father reveals even more of God’s good plans for us, and it assures us with a burst of light and hope and peace that nothing can change God’s good plans for us:

 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)

 What a deep sigh of relief. And yet, this verse does not say, “If you are following God’s plan, you will not get hurt.”

Oh, friends. I do not like pain. But the joyful hope and redemption is this: in His good plans, God has a glorious purpose for us in every hurt. Tears spring to my eyes with the joy of this Love.

Here, God not only promises to work all things for our good (meaning, not just the good things – but the bad and hurtful things that happen too), but He also reminds us here that we were chosen for a purpose. For a plan. So when someone hurts us, when circumstances disappoint us, when we get sick, when we feel lost, when our own plans don’t work, these disappointing things will be used for our good by the Father who loves us most and who also promises us a plan for our lives so great we can’t even imagine it (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Considering these truths, I hardly feel the need to rely on or find security in my own plans. I do not feel the need to plan myself into safety. In fact, doing so feels silly.

How could my plan even compare to the plan my Heavenly Father has for me? And since God promises to work all things together for my good, from what must I plan to protect myself?

This is great news, friends!

Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4).

Paul did not say to rejoice when our plans work out. He said to rejoice always.

Perhaps it’s because he knew that which I am just now understanding: God’s plans for us are truly good and full of hope in every circumstance. And so, we rejoice!

Blessings upon your heart today. Blessings to you on a day planned just for you. Blessings to you who are made for a brilliant and grand purpose so delightful and lovely you can’t even fully understand it until you see Jesus face-to-face. Blessings to you who are safe in Him.

And praise to the God who loves us steadfastly, is faithful always, has good plans for us, and who also created big, blank calendars and multi-colored pens for His beloved planners 🙂

In His steadfast love and grace,

 

Robyn

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8).