This past weekend, I had a lot of worries to face on what should have been a blissful outing. My husband, dog and I went for a hike to measure a trail for my husband's web site. My husband has a passion for running and numbers and helping others and sharing his story of faith, and he has combined all of that into a great site with maps and accurate wheel measurements of runnable trails in the northwestern North Carolina mountains.
I've taken wheel in hand to measure a couple of trails for him. And I've accompanied him on other trails as he did the measuring. Until this weekend, the trails were easy ones. Wide, well-maintained, steep at times, but still easy to walk.
This weekend's trail was different, and I knew enough to ask before I agreed to accompany him whether there would be stream crossings. You see, I really don't love stream crossings. I never have. I'm not coordinated, and something about stepping across slippery, wet rocks works on my overactive imagination in the worst kind of way.
My husband told me there would be one creek to cross but assured me it would be an easy crossing. Turns out, I didn't need to worry about that crossing. He was right. There were several stones sitting sturdily up out of the water for me to step across.
What I neglected to ask about, though, was another worry I face on hikes: crossing over downed trees. Somewhere, some wise or possibly mean person filled my little-girl head with fears about snakes and spiders waiting on the other side of downed trees to bite me.
That fear was reinforced in me about a decade and a half ago on a canoe trip from you-know-where, where the downed trees were filled with ginormous snakes sunning themselves and spiders that took pleasure in dropping into the canoe as we paddled our way under the trees. I'm still emotionally scarred. But that's a story for another time.
Back to this weekend's hike. I didn't keep track of the number of downed trees we had to cross over, but I got unsettled when I saw the first one.
My dog had never crossed trees like that before, and I wondered how she'd handle it. She can be fearful and stubborn when she's not sure of what's going on. But after watching my husband cross over, she and her doggy hiking pack leapt happily over each downed tree we encountered. She only paused for one set -- three tree trunks that were too low for her to go under but taller than she was by several feet. She watched to see how my husband maneuvered the trunks and then did her best leap of the day (picture horses gracefully jumping barriers in dressage). She somewhat impatiently waited for me to pick my way carefully -- and much less gracefully -- over the obstacle.
The trail was beautiful, though, and definitely a road less traveled. We saw two other people during the hour we were out there. So I had plenty of time to think about my silly fears -- the stream crossing I had feared without needing to and the tree crossings I didn't even think to fear before starting out.
God tells us over and over, "Fear not"
God would remind me that both fears were needless. My Bible concordance (The Strongest Strong's. Zondervan, 2001.) contains 593 entries for "Afraid" and "Fear." And that doesn't even include the variants of those words or their synonyms.
Here are a few verses about fear that I wanted to share with you:
- "Call on Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor me." Psalm 50:15
- "And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? ... Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:25-26
- "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:31-34
God promises to provide our daily needs. He promises to rescue us from our trouble when we call on Him. He promises us the kingdom. Worry is more than just an exercise in futility. It demonstrates a lack of faith in God's promises.
A Thanksgiving challenge
So what do I do about my worries? For me the struggle to stop worrying may take a lifetime to conquer, but I'm starting with a gratitude journal to turn my focus away from my fears and doubts and worries to the blessings God has showered into my life.
It wasn't my idea. I can't take credit. I just finished Ann Voskamp's lovely book One Thousand Gifts. A friend dared her to make a list of one thousand things she was grateful for, and the gratitude she learned to adopt toward God radically changed her life and inspired her best-selling book.
I know you have worries and fears. You're worried about a child leaving for college. You're worried about how to dig out of seemingly insurmountable debt. You fear for a spouse or parent whose health lies in the hands of doctors and hospital staff. You fear you may never get married or have children. You fear that you aren't measuring up at work. You're worried about a growing chasm you feel between you and God.
Let me encourage you to practice thanksgiving at this time. Write down the little moments as they happen. Or record them on your phone. Or tweet them.
If you'd like some inspiration, read Voskamp's book and her daily blog. As she illustrates time and again in her book, God will respond to your petitions when you reach out to Him with thanksgiving:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6
We have 99 days until we celebrate Thanksgiving (here in America). So here's a challenge for you: fill a gratitude journal with as many moments of your day as you can, moments when you feel God's blessing in your life. I'll let you know how my own gratitude journey goes. And I'd like to hear how a practice of gratitude changes you. Will you worry less and trust more? Will you feel a richer connection to God? Will you feel more alive?