Picture this: A little, tiny girl, overshadowed by a gigantic, strong, menacing bully. She kicks at him and says in her little, squeaky voice, “Take that, you big ole bully! That’ll teach you to mess with me.” The bully staggers back, surprise and pain written all over his face, as he doubles over and protects his weakest parts.
Okay, so I’m not a diminutive, sweet, squeaky-voiced girl. I’m a fat, old lady. But compared to Satan, the biggest bully of all time, I am all those vulnerable, pathetic things.
Now pan back and see the big picture. There’s an enormous, even stronger, shining person behind the little girl. He’s the one who is actually delivering the blows, but He’s there because the little girl called Him and asked Him for His help. He’s there to make sure her pitiful, albeit somewhat brave efforts are powerfully enforced. Oh man, she just kicked the bully in the balls!
That little girl is me. And you. (If you’re a guy, you can picture a wimpy, skinny guy with horn-rimmed glasses and not an ounce of muscle.) Satan loves to bully us. He enjoys making us think that we have to cower in fear of him. It’s his happiest moment when we become ineffective because we don’t want him to hurt us. And you know what one of his most successful strategies is? Worry.
He gets me to worry about finances. I’m then afraid to step out and do what God asks me to do, because I’m worried I won’t have the resources to accomplish it. Worry can distract me from loving on people. It can tie me up in knots so that I’m ineffective at just about everything. I become bitter about not being paid more for my hard work. I become stingy with the resources I have because I think that they’re in short supply.
I worry about what’s happening in our nation. That anxiety can sometimes consume me. Every possible outcome (all bad) sinks my world. I lose hope. I stop praying for our leaders. And yeah, bitterness sets in again. I get worried about what this world is going to be like for my kids and grandbabies. What are they up against? I can imagine a lot, but I also know that it can be worse than I imagine.
Substitute whatever it is that you tend to worry about. How does that effect you? How does it keep your focus away from God?
Worry draws my focus away from gratefulness and worship. When my worries loom huge, God seems to recede into the distance … and He looks awful small from so far away. Thanksgiving sucks when I’m filled with anxiety.
I realized something interesting today. Worry only happens when I mess with other people’s business. It’s when I start taking responsibility for things that aren’t mine to worry about. Here’s my analysis of my financial worries, since financial anxieties are probably something many of us can relate to.
1. Not being paid what I’m supposed to be paid? That’s not my problem. It’s between God and those who are supposed to pay me.
2. Having to accept charity and be on food stamps? I tend to think that means I’m inadequate. But I’m working hard, doing my part, and for now at least, this is God’s way of providing for us. I do my part, He fills in the rest … and teaches me humility in the process. My business in this is to work hard and with integrity. His business is to fill in the gaps.
3. God calls me to do something and I don’t have the resources? That’s not my problem. His will, His bill.
4. Trusting God and praising Him for His provision. That’s MY business.
See how this works? Suddenly, my only responsibilities are things I can handle: Work hard, with integrity. Trust God. Praise Him. All that other stuff that’s too much for me is not anything I need to concern myself with. In the past week, in addition to how He normally provides for me, He has also had various people pay my electric bill (they had no idea there was a need, because I didn’t tell a soul), provide money for a Christmas tree, offer to prep and deliver and set up our Christmas tree, give us a turkey … Our needs are provided and some non-necessities as well. I had things I was worrying about for the future, too, but this process has helped me differentiate between my responsibility and other’s and God’s … and that worry has mysteriously dissipated like the morning frost. If I mind my own business and no one else’s (God’s included), I have nothing to worry about.
Which brings me to Satan’s balls. Satan’s desire is to reproduce his nature in me and those around me. He wants to get me to despise God … or at least not trust Him. When I worry, I’m not trusting God to do His responsibility. I take on some of Satan’s traits: Pride, bitterness, etc. That affects others in that I’m not encouraging them to trust God, and maybe I get grouchy or withdrawn. And it infects them with worry, bitterness, etc, too. It reproduces Satan’s traits in them, as well. When I recognize what’s my responsibility and do it, and I keep my cotton-pickin’ fingers (and mind) out of everyone else’s business, there is no cause for worry or anxiety. I have peace and Satan hates that. It causes him pain. I severely impair his ability to reproduce. That’s what I call a good ball-kicking.
We’re on the cusp of two important holidays: Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. (You knew I would get there eventually, right?) And those holidays are really about God working through people to give Satan some serious ball-kicking.
Hanukkah is about the people of Israel, who had been conquered and were being ruled by an evil man: Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus defiled the temple. He tried to force God’s people to bow to false gods. He committed horrible abominations. God strengthened His people and provided by His nation through a family, the Maccabees, who were a lot like the Wolverines in Red Dawn. When the bad guys were thrown out of Israel and the people cleaned up the Temple, all they could find was 1 flask of the Holy oil. It was only enough to light the Menorah for 1 day … and it takes 8 days to sanctify the Holy oil. It was the people’s responsibility to light the Menorah and make more oil. It was God’s responsibility to fill in the gap of 7 days’ without oil. God miraculously made the oil burn for 8 days. They did their part. He did His part. And now their/our responsibility is to praise Him for what He did. That’s Hanukkah.
Back in the 17th century, a group of English believers wanted freedom to worship God according to their beliefs. They came to America, where they suffered many hardships. Many of their number died, and at one point, their situation was so grave that they each only had 5 kernels of corn to eat in a day. It would have been very easy to stop trusting God at this point. I would guess, since they were human, that they fought anxiety. But they didn’t give up. They didn’t turn away from God. They worked hard and they believed in His faithfulness. That was their job. God provided them with Native American friends who shared their resources with them and showed them some of the things they needed to know in order to survive in the New World. He also provided them with a good harvest the next year. The celebration feast with their Native American friends and its ongoing celebration in our homes is the American holiday of Thanksgiving. The turkey and many of the traditional foods we use, and having more than enough food on our tables that day remind us of God’s overwhelming provision. (And I, for one, am additional thankful that the turkey did not make it as our national bird, my apologies to Ben Franklin. I much prefer roast turkey to roast eagle on my table.) Oh! And I guess you could look at the football games as a celebration of our forefathers giving Satan a good ass-whooping. (Is that taking the analogy too far?)
May I exhort you to do something this Thanksgiving? Think through what’s your business and responsibility, and what responsibility belongs to God and others. Remember that if others are not doing their responsibilities, it’s not your problem: It’s between them and God. Recognize that filling in the gaps that are left is not your responsibility: Trust God to fill in the gaps that irresponsible people leave. This will free you in ways you can hardly imagine. Lift your voice in gratitude. Call on God to stand behind you and lend you His strength … and go kick some balls. (And I don’t just mean footballs.)