Sometimes I imagine myself physically tossing my worries and
anxiety into the ocean, to be swept away to a distant land.
Earlier this week I was practicing an act I've been prompted toward by some spiritual leaders in my life. I was praying God's word and speaking his promises out loud. This action is also mentioned in the opening chapters of a Bible study I've been doing, A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. I spent weeks resisting the idea because I felt silly walking around my house talking, seemingly, to myself, but the more I engaged myself the more I realized what I'd heard and read was true. I wasn't distracted. My mind wandered less frequently. I felt conviction in what I was praying.
One of the verses I prayed during my time alone with God was Philippians 4:6, which gives a prescription for worry and anxiety. Instead of feeling anxious, we are to trust God. We present our requests to Him. We surrender our circumstances to Him and thank Him continually. Then the peace of God will fill our hearts and minds, and we will be free. Although the instructions are fairly simple and straightforward, often the practice of them is not as easy. Or so I discovered as the day progressed.
I sat down later and began studying chapter nine of A Confident Heart, which is entitled, "When Doubt Whispers, 'I Can't Stop Worrying'" and was just finishing up a blog post when my Dad called. He started the conversation with our normal small talk and then blurted out that my mom was in the hospital with symptoms of what she thought was a minor stoke. The only word I heard in the entire summary was the word "stroke." My independent, stubborn, seemingly healthy mom. My mom who hasn't spent a day in a hospital since the birth of her children. I tried to mask my nervousness by asking tons of questions. Questions which he didn't have the answers to. Tests and more tests were needed. The ones they'd already conducted were inconclusive. By the end of the phone call I realized that I could only do one thing. Wait.
Like most people, I do not like waiting. My parents live over five hundred miles away so my natural instinct, which was to jump in the car and race to the hospital, was not feasible. My five-year-old was still in school, my youngest was napping, and after I called my husband and relayed the news, I was left alone in a quiet house with my thoughts. Thoughts which, unless they are focused and filled prayer and God's Word, can become very dark and negative in those types of situations.
I believe that when I prayed from Philippians and read the chapter about worry that morning, God was preparing my heart and mind for the coming news. As I waited for more information and test results I recited that verse again and again, focusing on the words and trusting that God would protect my mom. I thanked him for all the blessings in my life. As I focused on everything I had to be thankful for, the dark thoughts became less overwhelming.
My mom is being released from the hospital today, and although she will have to undergo physical therapy to regain function of her right arm and hand, which were affected, her spirits are high and her brain alert. I am amazed not only by her strength and determination, but by God's provision and the many people who prayed, visited, and called. She was surrounded by people who loved and supported her both near and far away.
Being given a stark reminder of your parent's mortality is heart wrenching. As a child, you want to protect them from harm in the same way they watched over you as you were growing and return the act of love they communicated throughout life. But when circumstances spin beyond control, you can turn inward or reach outward. Toward the God who is sovereign and holds the whole world in the palm of his hand, toward friends and family who love you and love the people who mean the most.
As I look back on the past few days, I am amazed to see God's hand and how he cared for each of us.
"You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head." Psalm 139:5 NLT