It had turned into a stress-filled, tense drive.
We’d left a little later than planned, a very bad tendency of mine.
There was traffic as we made our way to Manhattan, and lots of it. There was nervousness from my curly-haired daughter in the backseat about how things would go once we got there. And there were profound job troubles weighing heavy on my sweet guy who was driving us.
Acquisitions and buyouts, new bosses and difficult, unpleasable personalities, twice the workload and twice the travel all left him feeling, and looking, like a horse whipped to a sweaty, foaming exhaustion with the only escape a free fall into unemployment.
I could see him descend into the dark stairwell where his thoughts circled and planned and wondered and feared. The tense quiet in the car allowed his thoughts to spiral and caused his hand to clamp the steering wheel tighter. There was no use my stepping into that. My prodding to not worry was empty.
This husband of mine, carrying the burden of providing for our family. And me with the burden of knowing he carried that burden.
The schedule was tight today, but the people have still got to eat! Like an homage to Starsky and Hutch, Wayne pulled furiously fast into the Chick-fil-A parking lot. Was that squealing our tires? No matter. We had exactly 3 minutes for this pitstop!
He’d endured the line, resembling the wait for the tea cup ride at Disney, (is this place ever not crowded?) and by the time I joined him from my brief trip to the ladies’ room, he stood balancing all the accoutrements that came with our lunch on the run.
Top heavy drinks stacked, one upon another, copious amounts of ketchup packets, BBQ sauce and honey mustard. There were napkins and straws, spoons and salt, all precariously leaning against Wayne’s chest with the attempted containment of those pesky condiments that were falling one, then another.
Surveying the almost comical attempt to keep everything in his grasp, I pointed out there was an empty countertop just behind him. Why not just set things down?
“I’m just going to have to pick it back up again,” he shot back, highly irritated that I didn’t see the obvious pitfall for putting down his cumbersome assignment.
It stuck with me, as we continued the Amazing Race we were on to get into the city on time.
Don’t I do say this to my heavenly Father, who has instructed me to put down my own heaviness?
“I’m just going to have to pick it back up again. So why bother putting it down?”
And I get it. Why put our worries down? I’d rather bear their weight and get used to carrying them, because sometimes that moment of reprieve makes picking the load back up more unbearable.
We believe the lie that our burdens must be borne by us, on our own. “Let go and let God”- that cliché handed out, like candy, by annoying people who aren’t staring unemployment or terminal illness or clinical depression in the face.
Sure, we think. “I’ll ‘let go and let God’ and that’ll be great...until I have to get back to reality and do something about the circumstances I’m in.” Because there are always life situations we are juggling and precariously balancing, seeing them drop one by one and we can’t bend to save or turn to retreat.
The question I need to ask is, do we have to pick the heavy worry back up?
We all know the scripture where Jesus instructs his followers to not worry. But is this practical? Can it really be done? And if so, how?
1Peter 5:7 (CEV) says, “God cares for you, so turn your worries over to him.” And I think we can do this, most of us. We can coral our thoughts momentarily and say, “Yes, of course, you’ve got this God.”
But in the next moment, we circle back to the worry and the planning and the fretting. We pick the heaviness back up. And this is where we go wrong. Instead of handing over fear, we surrender our joy, which is our strength. (Neh 8:10).
We stress because it feels like we are doing something. We feel it would be crazy for us to not worry. Irresponsible, even! But Jesus already did the sweating and the distressing, to the point of sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, to cover our thought life with his precious blood.
He carried the 300 pounds of the heaviness of the cross up the hill of Calvary-so that we could carry the light burden, be fastened with the yoke that is easy. (Matt 11:30) In fact, we are instructed 365 times in scripture to not worry, not fear, to not be anxious.
Can I remind all of us that Matt 6:34 (Msg) (emphasis mine) says: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
The truth, in this silly matter of juggling our scrumptious lunch, was that, when it was time to carry everything back to our car, we all helped carry the feast. Wayne didn’t have to carry it all by himself. If I’m making a habit of looking for God everywhere, and I am, He can be found even in a story about a stressed out, pit stop at a fast food restaurant.
Help will surely come at the right time. And the only thing we accomplish in holding the fear until help comes, is exhaustion. Instead, when you are worried or afraid, let that anxiety you feel, that tightening of your grip, be a bright, beautiful red flag for you. That feeling in the pit of your stomach, that fast heartbeat, the lump in your throat? They can work for you! They serve as physical alerts that you have picked the worry back up. We have been promised, that we will receive the help we need “when the time comes”. There is no purpose to rehearsing trouble as we wait for the help.
And so, quietly, we can surrender our worries again and again, by saying under our breath, “I cast my cares on you, Father, because you care for me. You have promised me goodness and mercy all of my days.”
We are not meant to carry and juggle life’s worries. We cannot add a single day to our lives through our scheming. Instead of catching all the worries, and ketchups, as they tumble out of control, lay them down before they have a chance to fall. Surrender them, over and over.