Read: Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7; 2 Kings 19:14-19
Many daily tasks are ordinary; yet, there are little things that we do that make them easier in the long run. For example, a little something I do when doing the laundry. Today as I was checking the clothing in the dryer, I noticed what is apparent each time we wash and dry the sheets. The sheets were beginning to get tangled up, and hidden inside a little nook within the sheet, an errant sock was bunched up and buried. It was time to do what helps them dry efficiently. Disentangle, shake out and repeat. If I do this faithfully during the drying time, the sheets don't come out wrinkled and twisted and socks aren't generally trapped between the mattress pad and the sheet when we make the bed. In addition, everything dries more efficiently and evenly when I repeat this simple process. If sheets could talk, I imagine they would be glad to be "set free."
Have you ever experienced your thoughts being like sheets that are all twisted and tangled up? Have you ever been overwhelmed and worried so that you feel like you are going around and around? Have you ever felt tied up in knots? I have, and I'm guessing most people have had, on occasion, times when it would be good to disentangle, shake out and repeat. Thankfully, the Lord Who knows us, has given us practical ways to do this very thing.
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus teaches us to disentangle our thoughts by commanding us to direct them into a different place than our place of worry. I love how He gives us something we can all understand. Birds and flowers. No doubt, they are far less complicated than the variety of things that overwhelm us. After all, He didn't tell us to ponder mighty birds or rare orchids. How simple yet profound His words are. God Who superintends over the feeding of even the most common of birds both knows our needs and thinks of us as more valuable than they are. After all, Peter tells us that God showed us our value by shedding His blood for us, 1 Peter 1:18-19. Something that He didn't do on behalf of any of the animals or plants. Though He created each of them with precision and beauty, human beings are uniquely the ones who are made in His image, Genesis 1:26-27. So, when we find ourselves beginning to worry, what do we do? We disentangle ourselves from the thoughts within our limited view and remind ourselves of how much the Lord cares about us and that He is aware of our need. That is step one, but there is more. In Philippians 4:6-7, we shake out our thinking through prayer. Now it is time to run to the One Who is our Creator/Redeemer, laying out our petitions before Him. After we have nourished ourselves with the Lord's care for us and that He knows our needs, it is time to pray.
Again, the commands are simple enough for a child to carry them out. We are to tell the Lord what we need. Yes, He already knows, but He wants to hear from His children. Proverbs 15:8 reminds us of a sweet truth. Our prayers are a delight to our Father. Even the ones that pour out from us when we feel as knotted up as a sheet that has dried without being disentangled. Psalm 62:8 tells us to pour out our hearts to God. He delights to hear us because He loves us and is thinking of us, Psalm 139:17-18.
In 2 Kings 19:14-19, we Read how King Hezekiah practiced this very thing when Assyria was threatening Judah. I love the way the king spread out, before the Lord, the threatening correspondence Judah had received. He spoke boldly and humbly to God Who had created the heavens and the earth and called on the Living God to bend down and take note of the threats that had been uttered against His people. Hezekiah was remembering Who God is and that He cared about them.
Let's return to Philippians 4:6-7 where we are reminded to add thanksgiving to our petitions. How to practically do that? We can be thankful as we remember both the past and the future. Has God answered prayer for us? Has He sustained us so far? We can thank Him. If He did it once, can't He do it again? Will there come a time when all trials will come to an end and all tears will be dried, Revelation 21:4? Are all of our sins sent away from us as far as the east is from the west if we belong to Him, Psalm 103:12? We can thank Him. The results of petitioning and thanking Him? Peace!
Yet, as sweet as these truths are, I know that I will begin to worry again. I will forget and I will need God's reminder to disentangle, and shake out my knotted-up thoughts. Even though we are growing very slowly, we are changing from glory to glory, 2 Corinthians 3:18. Each time we remember God's care and run to Him and rest in His wisdom, power and love we take another step of obedience, and we show others that we trust Him.