Welcome to this edition of Ezer Equipped!
There’s a lot going on in the world, and it’s easy to get stuck, spinning round and round on the hamster wheel of worry. That reminds me of an old quote that says, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Isn’t that the truth?! If worry were physical exercise, many of us would be Olympic athletes! I’ve spent countless hours rehashing conversations in my head, worrying about what someone thinks of me, or fretting over something that may or may not happen. No doubt, many things we worry about are legitimate concerns—and that makes it all the more difficult to break the cycle. So this month, we are focusing on the topic of worry.
Before we dig in, though, I need to make an important distinction. Sometimes chronic worry is anxiety, which may be the result of a real chemical imbalance in your body. Because they feel similar, it’s easy to get the two confused! When I was in my mid-thirties, I went through a two-year period of depression and anxiety. I sought counsel, memorized the Word, preached the gospel to myself, repented of every sin—known and unknown—and begged the Lord for freedom. No matter how desperately I clung to the Lord, I couldn’t break free of the anxiety and depression. I was convinced it was because of my lack of faith. Finally, at the counsel of my biblical community, I reached out to a doctor for help. And it was only after getting the medical help I needed that I could begin to effectively address my spiritual needs. If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of chronic or debilitating anxiety, there is no shame in seeking medical help through a doctor and a counselor. In fact, it may be a step you need to take in order to find freedom and healing.
Worry is concern over a future outcome—something that may or may not happen—to the point that it invades your thought life, which over time, can cause stress, agitation, and temptation to either control or escape people and circumstances. When I first got sober, I worried endlessly about everything. Thankfully, I had a very wise mentor who always reminded me, “Chrystie, be where your feet are.” Her advice was simple and profound: You have no control over what happens tomorrow, next week, or next year. Your responsibility is to do the next right thing, to do what is in front of you at this moment, and to leave the outcome to God. Her advice, it turns out, was also biblical.
Matthew 6:25-34 is a rich passage that has much to teach us; but because of its familiarity, we might be tempted to skim right over it. The word for worry in this passage carries the idea of being divided, pulled apart, distracted, or troubled. And isn’t that how worry feels? When I am worried about something, I am distracted and not present to the people, opportunities, experiences, or joy that is right in front of me. Worry is a toxic emotional experience; it affects me mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically and relationally!
Jesus teaches us that worry is futile; it can’t add a single hour to your life (vs. 27). In fact, instead of adding hours to your life, you lose them. Worry is kind of like Facebook—you open it to look at one thing, and the next thing you know, an entire hour has passed with nothing to show for it. Rather than helping us be fruitful, worry spends our time, energy, and attention in a way that leaves us weary and doesn’t produce anything beneficial for us or for those around us.
Ultimately, this passage reveals that worry is rooted in forgetfulness. We forget who God is and who we are. God is not only our creator, sustainer, and provider; he is also our heavenly Father (v. 26, 32). We are creation: valuable, cared for, and dependent on his provision (v. 26, 30, 32). But our worry isn’t just rooted in forgetfulness; it’s also rooted in unbelief—believing instead that God doesn’t know, doesn’t care, or can’t do anything about our circumstances. All of this tempts us to take matters into our own hands—to overreach and take responsibility for things that aren’t ours to own or control. We succumb to the illusion of control—believing that if we think, plan, and work hard enough, we can control the outcomes in ways that are favorable for us or others.
Freedom from worry is rooted in knowing the character of God. You don’t have to worry because God IS (Revelation 1:8). He is before you, behind you, beside you, within you, and all around you (Psalm 139:1-12). You can sleep because he doesn’t; you can rest because he is always at work (Psalm 121). You can relinquish your need to control and give all your worries and cares to God because he knows and he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).
One of the most helpful tools I was given early in my sobriety is the serenity prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This simple but profound prayer always reorients my heart and mind: Be where your feet are. Do what’s yours to do. Entrust the rest to God.
There are things that are mine to do and things that aren’t. Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference, and I end up overreaching and turning a concern—something I have no control over or responsibility for—into my responsibility. I need wisdom and community to help me figure it out. If I am going to find freedom from worry, it’s going to require me to evaluate the themes of my worries and where I am tempted to turn my concerns into responsibilities. We’ve provided a resource to help you evaluate that in the Move section of this newsletter.
“Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—now and always.” - Psalm 131:1-2
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
The Scripture has much to say about worry—its roots and fruits. Take some time this month to read what the Scripture teaches us about worry. Some of these passages may be familiar, so you may want to try reading them in different translations (ESV, NIV, NASB, NLT are all good ones) so that you aren’t tempted to skim them too quickly and miss the truth they hold.
As you read each passage, note the following:
- What does the passage remind you about God?
- How does the passage direct you regarding worry?
- What does the passage say is the fruit of entrusting your concerns to God?
Worry is often rooted in a lack of trust in God or our misplaced trust in other things. In this passage, we learn that where we place our trust also produces a certain kind of fruit in our lives.
This passage reminds us that God, who so thoughtfully cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, can be trusted to provide for those who bear his image as well.
Worry isn’t always connected to troublesome circumstances; we can worry and fret over good things too. But, no matter the circumstance, worrying leaves us anxious and troubled, distracts us from what often matters most, can tempt us to believe that God doesn’t care, and can even produce a sense of entitlement and lead us to make demands of him.
God gives us peace that comes, not just as we present our requests to him and trust him to provide, but also as we rejoice in him and cultivate our gratitude for him.
Video teaching: Chrystie Cole
This video explores our common misconceptions, temptations, and errors regarding our concerns and responsibilities and provides clarity regarding what we are responsible for so that we may find freedom from unnecessary worry, concerns, and distractions in order to be effective at the specific work God has entrusted to us.
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
Worry isn’t entirely fruitless. It can reveal what we fear, what we value, and what we desire. Take some time to reflect on the theme of your worries, the things you are concerned about, and answer these questions:
- Describe the theme of what you typically worry about and how it affects you?
- What does it tell you about what you love and desire?
- What does it tell you about your fears?
Often worry is plagued by the question, “What if ___?” And as our minds play out all the thoughts of what might happen, we are confronted with the truth that we are not in control—God is. It can be terrifying, because there are no guarantees for how God may choose to act. But it can also be reassuring when we remind ourselves of God’s fatherly posture toward us. Consider whether or not your worrying is actually wrestling with God and who gets to call the shots.
The Bible describes worry as borrowing tomorrow's trouble. In what ways is this true for you? The reality is that what we need for tomorrow has not yet arrived. God gives us grace and strength for the moment we are in—not the future moment we are imagining. How could the knowledge that there is grace for today, only today, and grace for tomorrow, only tomorrow, give you hope and stability in the present?
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned?
The Serenity Prayer is a simple, but profound prayer that can reorient your heart and mind during times of worry. Print this prayer out and place it somewhere visible as a reminder. Or memorize it (short or long version) and recite it when you find yourself tempted to worry.
“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”
Memorize Psalm 131:1-3. Calming and quieting our souls is not a passive process. It will require work on our part—redirecting the energy spent worrying to actively embracing the strength and comfort God offers. What steps can you take to calm and quiet your mind when you are flooded with worry?
Set aside some time to watch the Concern and Responsibility video in the Listen section and then work through this excerpt from our Ezer Applied Discipleship Journal. This resource will help you discern what situations you need to entrust to God and which ones you are responsible for.
We have many serving opportunities—everything from one-time commitments, like providing a meal, to more sustained relational investments. Please take time to look through them and consider how to redeploy your time and energy in one of these areas:
Serve | Foster & Adopt Ministry
The Foster & Adopt Resource Center
The center needs volunteers to receive donations and organize on Thursday evenings or Saturday mornings at our Taylors campus. Volunteers rotate in shifts, so you can jump into the rotation with whatever time you have available. Sign-up here: https://rock.gracechurchsc.org/FAInterestForm.
Foster & Adopt - Taylors Campus
Our Foster & Adopt ministry is active at our Taylor campus on Thursday nights in many ways serving families and vulnerable children. We currently need additional volunteers (women included!) for our Safety Team in order to make this ministry possible! Could you serve for a two-hour shift as part of a rotating team on Thursday evenings? Our volunteers and group participants would be so grateful for your support. If you are interested in serving in this way, please email Chas Crenshaw at email@example.com.
We are excited to host Families Count classes in 2021. Through this parenting class, our participants can complete a part of their DSS plan working towards reunification with their children. Along with the class, we provide a meal for these families. We are looking for six individuals or community groups to volunteer to provide and serve one meal for the spring session (April/May). This is a practical, tangible way you can serve families in our community! If you would like to learn more or volunteer, please email FamiliesCount@gracechurchsc.org
Encouragement & Support
We want to support and encourage foster and adoptive moms in their parenting journey. As you meet or think about foster and adoptive moms from your campus, reach out personally to support them. Provide a meal, remember their birthday, send a special note of encouragement, offer your prayers and friendship. These seemingly small acts of kindness can serve to remind a mom that she is seen by the Lord and she is not alone.
Serve | Miracle Hill Overcomers Ministry
This is a 27-week residential program for men overcoming addiction. On Saturday nights, men from Overcomers have an opportunity to attend the service and explore Grace. After the service, we feed them dinner and they get to connect with each other, some family members at times, pastors, and staff. We would like to have some individuals/families/groups start providing the meals. It is usually a meal for 6-10 people. Pizza is acceptable, lasagna would be great, CFA sandwiches have been our Covid go-to as well. If this is something you would like to participate in, email Angie Wolff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Serve | Project Hope Foundation
Team Hope is a group of volunteers dedicated to supporting Project Hope Foundation staff, clients and families. Team Hope aims to bring the love of Christ and the hope of the gospel to each clinic through encouragement and quarterly event support throughout the year. This can look like dropping off breakfast for the staff or assisting a family in crisis support. We are specifically looking for volunteers to help at the Pelham Road and Anderson clinics which meet at Grace Church campuses. For more information, email Taylor Frick at email@example.com.
Serve | Grace Housing Ministry
One of the ways we serve our housing residents is through wrap around community groups, who engage them relationally and commit to praying for them. We are looking for wrap around leaders to connect with our wrap around community groups—to touch base with each group by email or phone once a month and keep the staff updated with successes and improvement opportunities. If you are interested in serving a few hours a month by making phone calls, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers are needed to unpack, sort, organize, and/or deliver new donations for the housing ministry. We are currently doing this every Tuesday from 11:30am-1:00pm, but we are looking to expand this work to one additional day in the week. If you are interested in volunteering or willing to lead a group of volunteers for two hours, please email email@example.com.
Do you like to paint or refinish furniture? We have opportunities for you to use your creative abilities to serve our housing residents. If you are interested in serving in this way, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have organizational skills and a few hours to give on a Saturday from 9:00-11:00am? We need volunteers to join us at the warehouse to help sort and organize donations. This is a great opportunity for individuals, families, or groups to serve together. Please email email@example.com.