In Big and Small Ways, Hope Prevails

In recent months it has become apparent that I am a Worrier. Everyone has concerns, and sometimes those concerns get the better of us—but I actively pursue potential problems no matter how unlikely they may be, then chew and chew and chew on them.

I try to pass it off as a strength—foresight leads to preparation, which benefits my whole family. But the truth is less noble: Mostly, I just don’t want to appear late, ill-equipped, or foolish. Despite my best efforts, I am still trying to measure up. But to whose standard?

Jesus warns us against worry:

“So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Matthew 6:31-34

The saints also warn us:

“Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul, except sin. God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”

St. Francis de Sales

“Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”

St. Teresa of Avila

“Pray, hope, and do not worry.”

St. Padre Pio

I know this, and yet I persist in losing time and sleep, humor and hair, while fretting about the future and all its possibilities and challenges.

In the past several weeks, God has been working on this aspect of my conversion, especially in two areas of our marriage in which I am not only likely to worry but also to drive my bride nuts: travel and money.

As a traveler, I pack light, but for every contingency; I get where I need to be early; I try not to be a problem; and I generally feel responsible for and protective of everyone in my party. I was all these things on our recent trip to Rome and Assisi—a trip in which flexibility was essential, given the presence of two grandsons under three and a tween daughter.

As a money-manager, I tend to be conservative, obsessive, and suspicious. I was all these things as we were budgeting and paying for the Italy trip while also shopping for a new vehicle. Sounds like a barrel of fun, doesn’t it?

But here’s the thing: Every step of the way, God nudged me—usually through Jodi, who is much more laid back about these things—to surrender my plans to Him. He provided opportunities for me to worry and obsess, as well as gentle reminders to me to act against those impulses. And in every single case, when I finally let go, the perceived difficulties either dissolved or were addressed in unexpected ways.

We had a wonderful, profound, fruitful visit to our family in Italy, and returned to find exactly the vehicle we were looking for at just the right price, not due to all my planning and preparation, but in multiple cases, despite it!

The examples were numerous, and many of them seem trivial—but strung together, they illustrate something more clearly to me than ever before: God is not watching us from His heavenly easy chair to see how our lives play out. He’s not waiting for us to fall down or screw up, then stepping in, exasperated, to bail us out YET AGAIN. Rather, He is waiting for us to hand even the small stuff over to Him, placing all our hope and trust in Him, so that He can work for our good in each moment.

Of course, this comes with the ever-present caveat: This doesn’t mean we will never have problems. Instead, it means that even those problems need not be the cause of undo stress or anxiety. God is at work in it; more important than the identifying the problem or the seeking the solution is examining what He is doing for our good in the situation.

How is God blessing you today? Maybe the answer is obvious; maybe it is hidden in sorrow and suffering—but I believe it’s there. The old saying, “The Lord helps those who help themselves” is true to a point, but the first three words are truer still: The Lord helps.

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