July 2nd, 2012 by Sarah Jackson
If there is one thing I’m good at it’s worrying. For years my propensity to worry has gobbled up my peace and joy. I’ve tried to combat it with breathing techniques and lots of chocolate, but all that does is make the room spin and my stomach churn.
My propensity to worry is rooted in something much deeper than the knots in my shoulders and the butterflies in my stomach: it stems from my belief that God might not provide for my needs.
Here’s the thing: in my head I am absolutely convinced that the God of Israel will take care of me.
But, as the Jewish Proverbs remind us, we don’t live from our heads; we live from our hearts, and my heart holds a set of beliefs totally different from my head-beliefs.
Theologians call our head-beliefs and heart-beliefs ‘conscious’ and ‘subconscious’ beliefs, respectively.
I readily espouse my conscious, intellectual beliefs about God because I’m generally aware of them, but I must observe by the way I live to be aware of my heart (or subconscious)-beliefs.
My worry is a good example of this. I hold the intellectual belief that God is perfectly good and powerful, and will take care of me. But when finances are tight, or health problems persist I begin to worry, revealing my subconscious belief that God isn’t as trustworthy as my head thinks he is.
If the heart is the wellspring of life, then my false subconscious beliefs are poisoning the water. I must eradicate them if I want my heart to overflow with clear, peaceful rivers.
This has proven to be a very difficult task for a ‘doer’ like me, because no amount of ‘trying’ on my part can eliminate my false heart-beliefs; the Spirit is the only one who can eradicate them.
I can, however, engage in activities that position my heart in a posture of openness to the work of the Spirit.
Over the years I’ve learned to open my worrying self up to the work of the Spirit by inviting him into the following activities:
1. I read stories about the saints who have gone before me.
After the Israelites cross the Red Sea in Exodus chapter 15, they burst into celebratory song, declaring the good things God has done for them:
I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea (v. 1).
They conclude the song by looking forward to the great things God will do for them:
You will bring [your people] in and plant them on your own mountain (v. 17).
God’s history of faithfulness to the Israelites gives them confidence that he will continue to do great things for them.
When I read the stories of biblical characters, missionaries, and martyrs I see a panoramic picture of God’s faithfulness to his people, assuring me that I can trust in his continued faithfulness.
2. I keep a journal of the way God provides, and then I go back and read it.
Sometimes I’m amazed at how short-term my memory is; I readily forget the good and powerful ways God provides for me.
The list I keep of God’s provisions helps reorient me as I learn to trust him. Like the Israelites’ song, my list assures me that the God who provided in the past will also provide in the future.
And it’s my record of God’s provision that prompts me to invite him daily into the overwhelmingly big problems and the seemingly insignificant minutia.
3. I exchange stories of God’s faithfulness with friends.
Awhile ago my colleague announced he and his wife had adopted a baby from the foster care system.
He described a weekend, months prior to the adoption, when he and his wife began to worry about whether or not they could afford their baby, since they weren’t sure they could afford a stroller, crib, and car seat.
In the midst of their worrying and wondering they received a call from a friend who hadn’t been told they were adopting.
“I had a feeling,” she told them, “that I should call you and offer you all of my baby furniture and equipment now that my kids are grown.”
When I exchange stories like this with friends, I’m reminded that God equips, not mere individuals, but his Body to build the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. And we can certainly trust that he will give us the things we need to do the work before us each day.
What practices have you adopted to change your subconscious, heart-beliefs?
Image credit: jolles.com