I was reminded of this continuum recently when a friend came in for counsel about some financial/legal problems he is encountering. The resolution of my friend’s problem is at least a year away, as it winds its way through the legal system. Between now and then, there is not a whole lot he can do. So how do we fill these times of uncertainty? We worry about it.
A few years ago, I was facing such a legal and financial challenge. The threat of bankruptcy loomed, as I faced a multi-million dollar judgment. It took over three years, but we finally resolved the problem.
Those three years were a trial and a test. Early on, everything went the wrong way. I had come to realize that each challenge offers an opportunity to learn and grow. So, In my meditation time, I stilled myself and asked God what He was trying to teach me through this dark time. In a rare flash of discernment, I got a clear message. “Do I have to take it all away from you to show you that is not where you should put your trust? You have been blessed in mighty ways. What are you waiting for, be a blessing!”
What an invaluable lesson. Rather than become bitter with our attorneys or the other party, I made the intentional decision to trust in God that everything would be OK. I made commitments, and reached out to bless others in my time of trial. The sense of peace that came from that decision got me through this difficult time.
A couple of years later, as the process ground towards conclusion, I prayed, “God, I think I got the message. Lesson learned, I think it would be OK to move on from here. I know I’m slow, but I think I got it.” The final result was incredible. The breakthrough came after we lost our case on appeal. At that point, our attorneys admitted they created the mess and stepped up, with their malpractice insurers, to pay most of the judgment.
Did I keep myself in the “trust” mode the whole time? No. What I discovered was a continuum. On one end of the continuum was worry. On the other end was trust. I found myself then, and find myself today, moving back and forth along that trust vs. worry continuum fairly regularly. My friend Harvey Cheatham says that it's a good thing I'm not all the way over at trust all the time. "You'd never get anything done. At the midpoint of the continuum, you have a sense of urgency to do what you can to work towards the needed solution."
Just becoming aware of this tendency has been very helpful to me. I remember reading something Rick Warren wrote. It went something like this. “If you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate and pray. Just focus yourself on God, and not the problem, and you’ve made the switch.” This simple change makes all the difference.
Worry just brings us into a state of higher anxiety. Trust brings us peace. As we begin to think of these two states, it helps to bring our focus back to God. Do you want peace? Spend your time with God. Do you prefer anxiety? Spend your time worrying.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. However, prayer and the spiritual disciplines are like other things that lead to health. As anyone who has started a diet or exercise plan knows, the challenge is not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know needs doing.