Orange floaties twice the size of their arm. Goggles that almost cover their entire face. Slightly burned pink legs—trembling as they stand at the edge of the deep end.
This summer, I watched many scenarios like this poolside. Children who want to jump into the water but are scared to be in a place where they cannot support themselves. But they aren’t alone in the terrifying feat. Just a few feet from the edge floats their father, his hands reaching up to catch them as soon as they launch from the tiled edge. The fathers gently coax their children, reminding them that they will always catch them and that their children can trust them.
One after another, the children always take that leap of faith, but the reason they jump recently hit me. They don’t jump because they understand that their floaties will keep them afloat. They don’t jump because they aren’t afraid of the unknown. They don’t jump because they think they can swim by themselves. They jump because they trust the love and strength of their father. Their faith in him is greater than their worry.
Most of my summer was not spent relaxing poolside. Instead, it was busy summer full of work and school, and unfortunately worry. I have a natural, fleshly tendency to worry about everything. Worry about how I will get all my work done. Worry of what the future will look like. Worry that I won’t finish an assignment…and then not graduate…and then not get a job…and then end up homeless on the street (just to give you a glimpse of my irrational anxieties). I could go on for pages about the worry I let plague me daily. And, until this summer, I didn’t realize how great a sin this was and how I was idolizing my own ability to swim by myself.
See, when I focused on worrying about the future, I was only thinking about how I would handle difficult situations that came. Instead of looking to my Father in the water, holding out His arms to catch me, I was calculating my swimming skills. Then I would jump, not towards my Father, but to the open water where I would end up struggling to keep my head above water.
God graciously didn’t let me drown this summer, though. He faithfully came next to me and lifted me up out of my anxiety. He showed me that I didn’t have to take on the great unknown by myself. He showed me that the only way I could stay afloat was to hold tightly to him—my loving, sovereign Creator and Savior.
One way He did this was through a book by Timothy Lane, Living Without Worry: How to replace anxiety with peace. God revealed to me my sinful pattern of independence and over-concern and practical ways I could surrender my burdens and trust in Him. Primarily, Lane suggests to overcome worry through prayer. To do this, I’ve turned to one of my favorite prayer resources: the Psalms.
As I have studied Psalms lately, I have seen how David surrenders his worries over and over again, and he had a lot to worry about (I haven’t dealt with death threats lately). He would present his worries before the Lord, entreat the Lord to act, then end by praising the Lord for who He is and what He has done. This pattern revealed a key element of overcoming worry—worry isn’t defeated by reason (“this isn’t as bad as I think”) or strength (“I know I can beat this”). It’s overcome by trusting in our Father’s arms reaching out towards us. It’s overcome by remembering how He has faithfully cared for us in the past and by praising His loving, just, righteous character.
Are you worried? I’m sure I could find some sort of research study to show that a majority of Americans would answer “yes!” Well, my fellow Christian, turn aside the worldly pep talks that tell you that you can face it on your own. You can’t. I can’t. But we have a Father who is ready to help us face the unknown. Jump into His arms and rest in the freedom of his strength and sovereignty. Here’s an example of a prayer to help you make that leap.*
A Prayer for Worry based on Psalm 27
Father, help me to realize whose world I live in. You are my God; there’s no reason for me to be afraid of (admit what scares and worries you) (v.1). I am worried about (confess your worries to God) (v.2-3). There’s no need for me to worry, because you are a gracious God, a God who protects me. You have rescued me from my sin, and I know that you will rescue me from whatever worries I have (v.4-6). I boldly ask that you take control of my worries. I cannot handle these problems on my own, but I know that you are a good and sovereign God who is in control of the world and my life (v.7-9). I know that I am going to face struggles in this life and that sometimes you allow hard times to come. But I also know, even during the trials, you will always be there, holding onto me. I can confidently walk in this world knowing you are there (v.10-12). Father, when worries come, when anxieties assail me, when fear threatens to overtake me, I will wait for you. I will take heart and be strong, not because of my own strength and goodness, but because of yours (v.13-14).
*adapted from Lane’s Living Without Worry