Mathew 14:23, “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,” Read the Devotion…..
I was stuck to my television and could not stop watching shark week this year. I couldn’t get enough information about these terrifying yet amazing creatures of the ocean. My obsession with sharks during this annual event was particularly odd since my fear of sharks keeps me from swimming in the ocean. Granted this week-long binge only confirmed that sharks are everywhere, but it also had another unexpected effect on me, a deeper spiritual lesson. Yes, I got a spiritual lesson out of shark week.
The Spiritual Lesson I Learned from Shark Week
For me, and many people, my fears have a rational and logical basis. Let’s look at my fear of sharks as an example:
- I am afraid of sharks
- Shark can eat me or bite an arm or leg off me
- There are sharks in the ocean
- I am afraid to swim in the ocean because I don’t want to be bitten or eaten by a shark
This fear is logical because there are in fact sharks in the ocean and they can kill or bite you. There is nothing wrong with having a healthy fear of something that is deadly, but when does they healthy fear become unhealthy?
I’ve talked about worry in a previous blog post, so I will just summarize it here. Worry is a sin. Like it or not, it is. God tells us not to worry so many times in the Bible. He has also given multiple examples of why I shouldn’t worry in Bible stories and my own life. However, I continue to struggle with worry.
Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Worry is when you allow yourself to dwell on a rational fear (or maybe even an irrational one). Particularly one you can’t do anything about. If nothing else, you are wasting the good of today by fearing what might or might not happen tomorrow. It is a waste of time, it is unhealthy, and it is not fun.
So, you are probably wondering about that spiritual lesson and shark week about now, aren’t you? Well, here it is:
While watching and learning all the amazing facts about the different sharks, I noticed something. When they were filming these massive creatures underwater, there were always fish, stingrays, and seals swimming around in the water with them. In one program, they talked about how stingrays were a favorite delicacy of a certain shark, and there were stingrays going about their daily business with these sharks swimming around them. The same with seals and the other favorite food sources of sharks.
The seals even looked like they were having fun! Swimming, diving, and even frolicking with the top of the oceanic food chain right there in their midst. My natural reaction was to want them to hide and run away so they don’t get eaten, but that is not what they did. They enjoyed their life and didn’t worry about the sharks.
That is when it hit me. What good would it do for the seals or fish to worry about the sharks every day? They are always going to be there, and there is always the potential they will get eaten. But, they can’t survive if they stay hidden all the time so what is the point? They just enjoy life and go about their daily routine. Worrying about the sharks was not going to change anything except take away their joy for that day. If one day they get eaten then that is just how life is. The great circle of life thing.
Matthew 6:27 says, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
If the seals and stingrays and other fish worried all the time about getting eaten by a shark that would not help anything and would not keep it from happening. It would only diminish the days that they had to live. I’m not saying to throw all caution to the wind because there are things that you can and should do to reduce the risk of some viable fears. Just like the seals stick close to shore so they can escape if a hungry shark comes along looking for a meal. Being smart is different from worrying.
My fear and worry can keep me from doing things I want to do or, at the very least, they keep me from enjoying the days that I am worrying about something I have no control over. Besides 9.75 times out of 10 the thing I worried about never happened or was not that big of a deal. I just wasted a lot of time, energy, and probably sleep worrying about it. I need to be more like the seals.
Now, am I going to go surfing or swimming out in the middle of the ocean? Probably not, but I have gone snorkeling and swimming with some ocean life despite my fears and am glad I did. Maybe one day I will make it onto a surfboard – you never know! But in the meantime, I am not going to worry about it.
Do you have a fear of sharks? Do you go in the ocean anyway?
A Biblical Perspective on Worry and Anxiety
Philippians 4: 6-7
6) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I worry. I worry a lot. About everything, even things I make up to worry about. As hard as it is to say, worry is a sin. The verse above does not say – try to not be anxious or try to not worry about everything – no, it says “DO NOT be anxious about ANYTHING…”
If you are like me, you don’t like to hear that. You want your worry to be OK, or, for it to be understandable based on your past or something terrible that happened to you. That is what I wanted. I had reasons to worry or be anxious from traumatic events in my past, but the truth is, whatever the reason for my worry, it is a sin.
The good news is that Christ died for my sins – all of them, including my worry and anxiety – and he washed them all away with his blood. That wasn’t done just for my sins in the past, but for the past, present and future. However, that doesn’t mean I should just keep on worrying and being wound up with anxiety. No, that means I should do whatever I can to get worry out of my life.
Why? It’s because the things in the Bible that God tells us not to do are for our own good. Any sin will lead to some sort of destruction or turmoil in our lives. Like worry. God says don’t worry because He wants us to realize that He’s got this and we don’t need to worry. Worrying doesn’t help anything and all it does is make us, well, worry.
The verse above is a popular verse for people to read and memorize, but do you know the 4 words that come just before it in verse 5? “The Lord is near.” For some reason that little phrase doesn’t make it when this verse is quoted or memorized because it is part of the verse prior. However, it is really an integral part of these verses. God is not shaming us for being worried, He is comforting us and telling us He is right here with us and He will take care of it and, if something bad does happen, He will get us through it.
All that being said, there are levels of worry and anxiety that need more than words to help. These conditions and disorders may require counseling and or medications and that is OK. The point is not to be ashamed that you worry or have anxiety, the point is that you don’t have to go through it alone. “The Lord is near.” There are also a lot of people out there suffering through worry and anxiety, like me, that would love to help support you as well and get through it together.
My main defense against worry is prayer. Every time I start to worry, I start to pray abut whatever I’m worrying about at that moment. Yes, some days (many days) it seems like I have to pray constantly, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t such a bad thing.
How do you combat your worry and anxiety?
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“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”
I have read this verse multiple times in my life, but for whatever reason God wanted me to really see it this time because it just jumped out at me recently when it appeared in a devotion. It actually almost made me sick to my stomach when the meaning sank in and a thought came to my mind:
“Would I ever tell someone to follow my example as a follower of Christ?”
Well, the answer quickly followed and was a resounding “No way!” I don’t want that kind of responsibility and, probably more accurately, I don’t want that kind of accountability. Yet, here is Paul telling the church at Philippi to do just that. So, does Paul just think he is “all that and a bag of chips” to the point that he thinks all Christians should be as good as he is at being Christ like?
Actually what Paul was saying was quite the opposite as we can read in 1 Timothy 1:15-16:
“15) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16) But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
Paul’s point was not to follow him because he was a great a being like Christ, his point was for them to follow his example of being a sinner and yet shown mercy by Jesus despite all his sin. In other words, you don’t have to be perfect and sinless instead, you can be just like Paul, full of sin but given mercy and salvation through Christ.
This verse is a challenge to me and I hope to you as well. Ask yourself, “What example am I setting for others?”
Am I setting an unrealistic example by pretending to be perfect on the outside and not being vulnerable enough to let people see all the times I fall?
I think God wants us to set an example that shows the reality of being a follower of Christ. Trying to following Jesus’ perfect example and always falling short but accepting the grace, patience, forgiveness and, ultimately, salvation despite all my sin and shortfalls.
Here is an even more challenging question: “Would I ever be willing to tell others to follow my example?”
That is scary for me and it is what caused me to feel sick to my stomach. It is scary to think of someone watching how I react to this life because I don’t always handle things the way God would like me to and I don’t want others to see that example. However, that is life as a sinner in a sinful world and new believers or, those that haven’t made the step of accepting God’s salvation yet, need to know that it is ok to mess up. We all do it and God is always right there ready to forgive and love us anyway.
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