Living Like a Sparrow: A challenge to trust

Our challenge for the next two weeks grows out of Matthew 6: 25-34:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We spent time dwelling in 1 Peter 5:6-11:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

We also spent time reflecting on worry.  We discussed how worry can reflect arrogance, when we think that our own problems are so important that it consumes our thoughts.  Worry is also counterproductive; it perpetuates itself by keeping us from accomplishing things that might reduce our stress (e.g. worrying about a homework assignment can keep us from just going ahead and getting that assignment done).  At the same time, trust does not mean just sitting around.  We must be actively engaged in a way that reflects our trust in God.  Rather than being crippled by worry about our own needs, wants, successes, failures, reputation, etc., we are free to seek the kingdom of God, trusting that he will take care of us.

Our challenge this week will help us to cast our anxieties upon God when we find ourselves worried and to adopt a lifestyle of active trust, keeping our priorities straight, even when life is busy and stressful.  Here it is:

1) When you find yourself worrying about something:

  • Name your worry
  • Surrender it to God, perhaps by using a breath prayer
              – “O God come to my assistance; O Lord make haste to help me.
              – “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need”
              – “God is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust”
              – “I will cast all my cares on you because you care for me”
  • Visualize yourself resting in the peace of God and choosing to be content (e.g. you might picture yourself being lain down in green pastures and led beside quiet waters)

2) Practice Sabbath (a day off from work, schoolwork, and any sort of striving) at least once in the next two weeks.

– We had a great discussion about how it is important to really hallow this day and receive it as a gift from God.  This practice will help us to see if our lives are really ordered in a holy way, or if they are way too overcrowded.  The challenge is not to squeeze seven days of work into six days, thereby stressing yourself out even more.  It should help us be more diligent, but it should not cause more stress.  This might mean taking a hard look at your schedule and deciding to cut out something so that you can practice Sabbath.  Sabbath is an implicit admission that the world does not depend on me.

3) Be interruptible as an expression of your trust in God.  Ask God for “divine appointments” and then treat every person you meet, every interruption to your planned schedule for the sake of a relationship, as an opportunity to be Christ in the world by being present, as an opportunity to seek God’s kingdom first and trust that he will faithfully provide whatever you need.

4) Choose one homework assignment, and get it done EARLY!

– The idea here is that much of our stress springs from procrastination.  We can help ourselves live a calmer, more peaceful life by taking care of our responsibilities diligently.

5) Be sure to honor the commitments that help keep you sane.

– Often, when we get stressed, the first things to go out the window are prayer time, small group, and church – all the things that actually help center us and call us back to ourselves when worry threatens to make us crazy.  Make sure you don’t give up the things that give you life and peace, especially your time in prayer.

Remember, God himself is the one who will gently teach us to trust him more and more each day.  This challenge will hopefully create space for God to do this sanctifying work in us.

May God give us all the grace to trust him.