Stress, tension, anxiety and worry are pretty much household words. In fact, there are over-the-counter drugs sold just to treat stress-related symptoms (i.e., Excedrin for that tension headache; Alka-Seltzer for indigestion due to aggravation, etc.). Medicines might be able to treat symptoms, but, as always, God has the solution to the problem.
1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him (God) because He cares for you
“Anxiety” is the Greek word merimna, which means a dividing or distracting of the mind. It’s mental overload. Have you ever been there–when the cares of this world just consume your thinking? From bills to test scores to regrets to being offended to health issues to time schedules–the list goes on and on.
Now, God’s Word says to cast those thoughts that are causing us to become distracted over to Him. You fishermen types know what it means to cast. For the rest of us, it means to fling, to throw with a sudden motion. The idea is to get rid of the distractions quickly. Let God take care of what distracts us so we can focus on living His Word.
The gospel of Matthew emphasizes the reason we should fling over our worries to God.
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the Word, but the worries (merimna) of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
Take note of the words “worries,” “choke,” and “unfruitful.” When we spend our time worrying or distracted over life’s “issues,” we allow these thoughts to crowd out and choke God’s Word from our minds. The end result—no fruit.
In Luke 10 there is an example of one woman who was pretty stressed out, and how Jesus responded to her. Verses 38-40 paint the picture of Martha, a woman who opened her home to Jesus and his disciples (a pretty good size crowd). As she is busy preparing for her guests, her sister, Mary, is sitting at our Lord’s feet, listening to Him. This catches Martha’s attention, giving her one more thing to fuss over. She is aggravated to the point that as far as I can tell she interrupted Jesus to complain, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me” (Yikes—she’s telling Jesus what to do!).
I can just hear the tenderness in Jesus’ voice as He responded: “Martha, Martha, you are worried (merimna) and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (vv. 41 and 42).
It is significant that the word “better” can literally be translated, “the good part,” and “part” is the root word for merimna. When the mind is distracted, it’s divided into “parts.” Mary chose the one thing to set her mind to that was good, that was needed. Now this is kind of hard for some of us women. It’s pretty normal for us to think that the food preparations and other comforts of home for our guests are more needed, but that’s not what Jesus was saying. At that moment in time, sitting at his is feet and listening was the one good choice, and Martha could have had that pleasure also.
When I am in the process of mentally torturing myself with worry, regrets, and complaints, I have found that it is hard to just stop. I can fling my “issues” over to my Father all day long, but unless I replace the “bare spots” with other thoughts, “weeds” keep springing up. It is interesting to note that in Philippians 4:6-9 we are told to not be anxious about anything, but to pray. Then we are told what to think: thoughts that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, whatever is excellent and praiseworthy. Verse 9 takes it a step further. We are not only to think, but to act on what we think.
To become an expert in thinking wholesome, fruitful thoughts takes practice, practice, practice. It’s just like disciplining ourselves to learn a dance routine, a musical instrument, or a program on the computer. To become adept at thinking godly thoughts takes noticing your thought processes and comparing them to The Truth, God’s Word. For example, when I start to get concerned about our finances, I can request help in prayer and then not allow my thoughts to continue to hash over our finances and the “what ifs.” Instead, I can rehearse (remember it takes practice) how God promises to care for me. I also can look for something noble to do, like encourage someone else, or use my mental capacities to pray for others. How about sinking my heart into praising God and my Lord Jesus Christ? Actually there is so much more to think about then just our problems!
So when you find yourself thinking and rethinking thoughts that distract you from what’s true, stop. Cast them over to your heavenly Father. Replace those thoughts with the “excellent and praiseworthy.” This takes some real conscious effort, but the end result is peace. When you give your distractions to God, you will experience the peace He has promised. It is peace that stands guard over your heart and mind, peace that allows for good fruit to flourish in your life.