“Worry is a choice. It is addictive, habit forming. Jesus gives me His peace. I have to make the choice to stop worrying and choose peace.” Pastor James Sunnock
On the second week of Advent, our pastor spoke about peace. If you have ever felt the peace of God, you’ll understand when I say it’s like no other peaceful feeling you have ever experienced. I believe that is because when you receive God’s peace, you are receiving peace from the Holy Spirit – a person, not a feeling. It is not dependent upon the circumstances around you. Instead of beginning outside with a situation and working its way into your heart, it starts in your heart where the Holy Spirit lives and bubbles outside you, making it something others see and want to experience for themselves.
I had a good friend years ago whom I met through work. Her life was one of chaos. They were currently raising biological, foster, and adoptive children and they had 13 at the time. Every time I would go for a home visit, their house was always so peaceful. I never understood how so many children and so much noise were described as so peaceful. It’s because of what radiated out of them toward others. She was a wonderful example of what God’s peace looks like.
Toward the end of the message, our pastor raised a challenge. He stated that worry was a choice. We could choose worry in our lives…or we could choose to put away worry and choose peace. As someone who has struggled with fear versus faith, I decided what a better time to put away worry for good than right before Christmas. It seems as though there is always something to worry about – finances, health, family, safety, the government…but God knows all that. It’s still a choice. I decided that I would lay aside worry…every time I had an opportunity to feel afraid, I would choose to trust God, inviting in His peace.
From past experience, when I choose to lay aside a stronghold, there is an enemy who doesn’t want me to see victory. Now I wasn’t inviting him into my life to wreak havoc, but I knew from I Peter 5:7 to “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (NIV) There are two areas in my life that are easy targets for me: Financial security for my family and my family’s safety and health. I was ready for his tricks…or so I thought.
We weren’t home from church more than thirty minutes when the first test came…finances in the form of the credit card bill. We have been working on eliminating debt and we had talked that when the bill came, we were going to sit down and discuss a plan of attack. So, when the bill actually arrived, I was able to put it to the side until we were ready for our discussion, confident that God was in this, He would give us wisdom to get it paid off quickly, and our finances would begin to look healthy. We were unified in our goal and we were asking God for His help – inviting peace and choosing not to worry.
The second test came approximately six hours later. We live in the Midwest and it was December. However, despite a very abnormally cold beginning to the season, it was a nice mild weekend. We have a black lab who turned 12 years old the day before, so he’s getting up there in age and has always lived inside. Well, this particular night, for some unknown reason, everyone in the house thought someone else had brought our pet inside. When we went to bed, my husband remarked he thought it was strange he hadn’t seen Max all night. My first thought was panic…for a number of reasons. Wild animals, a neighborhood dog that has attacked him twice in the past or just the fact he’s jet black and it was 10:30 at night. If he had run away, we wouldn’t be able to see him. I opened the door and he was sitting right there, a little indignant to have been forgotten about for six hours. Of course as he walks in, I hear sneezing and coughing so my first thought was “pneumonia…bronchitis…I killed our dog right before Christmas.”
I chose peace…I prayed, trusting my Heavenly Father with my four-legged child and went to sleep. He got extra attention from our kids and except for feeling chilled, he was no worse for the wear.
The third test came Monday morning. I received a text from my dad that he had gone back into atrial fibrillation around 3 AM that morning. That was a big deal because in June 2014, he had surgery to heal him completely of his atrial fibrillation. Despite the healing that had occurred, my dad was discouraged and he was still out of rhythm more than six hours later. I, however, didn’t feel fear like I normally would. I felt God’s peace and I tried to encourage him to cling to the promise of his healing as well. By 12:30 PM he was back in rhythm but had two long days to wait to see his cardiologist. Wednesday afternoon I received a phone call stating the doctor wasn’t worried either, they had a new protocol “in case it happens again, but let’s hope it doesn’t” and that was it. If I had worried, I would have wasted two days. Instead, I chose God’s peace and we rejoiced with the answer.
I thought the testing was over. I thought I had passed…but I forgot to watch for the final blow of the enemy to try and knock me out. As a result, he almost succeeded. My husband and I just completed a six month elimination diet (he was much more faithful than I was) but I had gained some major health benefits along with him. However, then Thanksgiving came and I had dropped off the wagon some…not quite climbing back up since Christmas was right around the corner. Well, I think my body was rejecting the sugar overload and sudden absorption of carbs and processed food because I started to feel funny. I took my blood pressure and it was stroke level. I took it again a little later and it was prehypertension level but not nearly as high as the first reading. I have had issues with high blood pressure periodically in life which is why we have a home monitoring cuff. But my thoughts immediately went to, “my kids are going to lose their mother. I will die and they won’t remember me.” It doesn’t help when your littlest plays the “Thank You, Jesus” game by saying, “Thank You, Jesus, I get to be with my mommy forever.” I didn’t realize I was choosing worry at first, but I was. I was imaging all sorts of scenarios that weren’t going to happen. Every book I had read, every sad story I had heard, every worst case scenario I had experienced through others became forefront in my mind as was going to happen to me.
Then God reminded me…very softly and gently. About the credit card bill. About Max being left outside for six hours. About my dad’s health. And about how I chose peace every single time. What about now? I thanked Him for that reminder and in that moment, I chose peace. I realized I was allowing the enemy freedom with my thoughts and he was having fun feeding me lies. As soon as I chose peace, my blood pressure lowered (imagine that!).
Yes, my friends, worry is a choice. Will I choose correctly every time? Obviously not. But God is right there to remind me that I always have a choice. What is your choice?
© Cheri Swalwell 2018