Goal for 2018 : Living free from anxiety
This morning I misplaced my smart phone. (The phone may be smart – its owner, not so much). I eventually discovered that I had left it at the postal counter at our local pharmacy when picking up a package. However, until I figured this out and retrieved it, I was finding it hard to stay focussed on anything else. My plans went out the window as my thoughts kept gravitating to one thing – getting my phone back. When I had checked all the usual places in our house and didn’t find it in any of them, I became more than a little concerned.
My smart phone gets a lot of use. To make matters worse, the previous day my laptop had died, and I had not succeeded in restoring it from a system image (I did have one), so my beautifully-ordered plans for the tail end of the holiday period were in something of a shambles. I make my living as an IT consultant, and some important business information was on the laptop. I’m also quite active in several areas of ministry, and my laptop contained some sensitive documentation regarding refugees as well as prayer lists, Powerpoint presentations, words to worship songs, and so forth. I had backups, but having to rebuild everything was proving to be a major inconvenience. I had also planned to do some work from home yesterday and today, and of course that was not happening. This came on top of a similar computer failure on my wife’s laptop a couple of weeks previously, from which I was still in the process of recovering, with the very welcome help of a friend. Marion and I had planned a special day with our granddaughter for this evening and Saturday, and I didn’t want to jeopardize those plans, but I had hoped to make some progress on getting my computer systems up and running before she arrived. In the midst of all this, misplacing my phone was the icing on the cake, so to speak.
I knew, of course, that I should pray. And I did pray, while also attempting to continue to make progress on rebuilding my computer systems, and deciding what to do about the work I had missed and the documents I might be missing (the full extent of the loss of data wasn’t clear, and still isn’t). But it’s hard to focus on multiple important priorities at once.
Despite the fact that I was giving Him anything but my undivided attention, as I was attempting to work on my computer system and trying not to panic, in His kindness and wisdom Holy Spirit managed to get two messages through to me about my phone . Message #1 : “It’s not lost”. I realized that this was a reference to a powerful dream He had given me previously – a very graphic illustration that Father never misplaces anything and always knows the solution to every problem. Message #2 : “Call the postal counter at the pharmacy”. I had rejected this thought at first, because I was quite sure I had brought the phone home, but when this thought wouldn’t go away, I decided to pay attention to it. And sure enough, the postal clerk confirmed that my phone was there. To say I was relieved would be an understatement.
I had to walk to the pharmacy because my wife was out with the car. This gave me an opportunity to process the morning’s events with the Lord. I recognized that I was being humbled by a set of circumstances that served as a very effective reminder of my weakness and dependency on Him. I was, quite simply, powerless to either prevent or change the events that had impacted my orderly plans. All I could do was to decide how I was going to respond to these events that were beyond my control. It was as if God had put the brakes on. At the same time, when I made things worse by misplacing my phone – a simple but humbling mental lapse – He demonstrated His great kindness and care for me, reminding me that what seems like a crisis to me is no great problem for Him, and then simply, kindly and clearly showing me what to do.
I have learned that God always knows what I need to do in any set of circumstances, and is willing to show me. This simple truth is powerfully securing. I am learning in a fresh way just how good He is to his children. But we only taste and see His goodness to the extent that we lay down our stubborn independence, and admit that we really can’t manage life very well on our own.
I don’t make New Years Resolutions, but I do believe in setting goals and establishing priorities as Holy Spirit leads. In 2018, I want to become a much more peaceful man. The kind of peace I am speaking of is not passive. It doesn’t mean that I care less about the issues and concerns and needs around me. It simply means anchoring my soul in the reality that God is God and I am not, that He is good to me and wants to bless me with His peace, and that when my heart is at rest and free from anxiety, I am far more able to recognize His priorities for me and act on them, without having to contend with the “white noise” of constant low-grade anxiety that at one time used to dominate the landscape of my mind. Like some unwelcome but hard-to-get-rid-of squatter, anxiety is stubborn and hard to evict. This usurper occupies far less space in my thought life than he once did, but he still crops up every now and then, cluttering my mental landscape with harassing thoughts that – if entertained – distract me from the simple obedience of faith. I want him gone, and I am learning that abiding in God’s rest is the key. There’s not room for both in the same space. Either peace is driven out by anxiety, or anxiety is driven out by peace. In 2018, I’m choosing peace. Who’s with me?