DOES GOD’S LOVE CONQUER OUR VICES
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JANUARY 23, 2011
“My God will supply all that you need from his glorious resources in Christ Jesus. And may glory be to our God and our Father for ever and ever, amen!” (Phil. 4:19-20, Phillips)
If you’ve ever had good counseling, you know that a good question from the counselor is part of the healing process. A friend supplied me with such a question this week and God began the healing process. Sally (not her real name) told me that she had shared the Mrs. Magillacutty stories with a friend of hers who we’ll call Kitty (also not her real name). Kitty likes the stories even though she doesn’t like most Christians, or Christ Himself due to persecution she has suffered through the years from diligent religious folks trying to change her lifestyle. Kitty wanted my friend Sally to ask me what my vices are. I laughed when I heard the question and asked, “Is she wondering if I drink brandy and play poker?” Mrs. Magillacutty did both things until she met Jesus personally, after which she gave them up. Sally laughed and said that Kitty did wonder that.
I replied, “Yes, I occasionally have one ounce of brandy to help me sleep, and No, I don’t play poker, not that I have anything against it particularly. I just don’t know how and don’t want to lose money.” As I was explaining that, the Lord reminded me of what my real vice is which I then shared with my friend. Drinking, smoking, gambling, cussing, lying, and gossiping are vices preached against by the good folks in the 3rd Baptist Church on Main St. (Mrs. Magillacutty’s congregation), but they are petty stuff to me, and I suspect to God as well. The real biggy, which I consider more than a vice, but a real sin, is WORRY, fretting, stewing and wringing my hands about something or someone. Why is it a sin? Because simply, when we worry, we are acknowledging that we don’t think God is able or capable of handling the situation. It results from our doubting God’s sovereignty, His trustworthiness and His ability. No matter how you spin it, that is missing the mark of the high calling of Christ.
I come from a family of matriarchs who have mastered the fine art of worry and fretting. They have a Ph.D. in it, in fact. Growing up, I learned by their example that if I didn’t do something about the situation, all hell would break loose and disaster would follow shortly upon its heels. There are several psychological aspects to this, over and above the theological implications. This knee jerk reaction is codependency fueled by fear. If I don’t do it, goes the fear, it won’t get done, so even if I don’t know what to do, I’d better do something, or really, REALLY bad things will happen to those I love and/or me.
Counseling helped me realize that though I put on a brave face and made positive confessions about my confidence and abilities, the bottom line was that I was fear driven. Fear fueled my attempts to be perfect for God, our real estate clients, and everyone else I related to. This codependent fantasy is so subtle and so packed into my psyche that it still sneaks up on me at times. Over the holidays (one of the most stressful seasons of the year), I had begun to fret and stew over loved ones who were having serious problems, Lenny’s health, and who knows what else? The predictable result was I got sick, really ill for the first time in years. Stress compromises the immune system and after mine became overwhelmed, I went down for the count.
When God brought this to my attention, I repented (changed my mind), about who is responsible for the things I worry about. Does God or Jan sit on the throne? I woke up in the middle of the night last week and committed to myself and the Lord that I was going to quit, stop, and desist pursuing this nonsensical behavior. If God can’t take care of it, as promised in scripture, I have a worse problem than the situation itself.
Meanwhile, our dear friend Marvin has been sliding downhill health wise since before Thanksgiving. He is a member of our family spiritually and as close to us as our actual family. I rose to the bait and tried to figure out how to help him. Long story short, he just kept getting worse.
On Wednesday, we left him unable to walk because he gets dizzy and falls, and unable to ingest anything but Ensure for nourishment. I had a heavy heart when I crawled into bed that night, thinking he was dying and what kind of a friend was I that I didn’t stay over there with him? I was simply too tired and worn out, having been over there numerous times in the previous three days. So, feeling like a failure and a worm besides, I crawled into bed and slept a couple of hours.
I woke up with the old syndrome of worry and fear beginning to creep into my thoughts. I remembered my commitment to cease and desist such activity, got up, and opened my Bible to Phil. 4:5-8: “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is TRUE, whatever is NOBLE, whatever is RIGHT, whatever is PURE whatever is LOVELY, whatever is ADMIRABLE…if anything is EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY..think about such things.” All this is based on the statement: The Lord is Near!
As I began to meditate on that, I realized that the only person in the Universe worthy of praise and honor, the only excellence and virtue to be found on planet Earth, the only One who has ever been TRUE, NOBLE, RIGHTEOUS, PURE, LOVELY and ADMIRABLE, is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself! Applying that to my worry that Marvin was over in his little house dying all by himself without anyone there to see about him or comfort him, I said, “Lord, I’m seeing YOU there to comfort and heal him. He is NOT alone. He has the King of kings and Lord of Lords with him.” My angst began to dissolve and my worry to flee as I remembered the scripture I began with: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever amen.”
The first thing I thought of the next morning was Marvin. Was he still alive? We had 4 inches of snow over ice in the night; it was still snowing and I knew we couldn’t get out. I called him and he was alive and sounded a bit better. I told him about my temptation to worry but that God over rode it with peace. He was so happy to hear it. That was round 3,973 for me and there will be more rounds, but I know I do not bear this alone. God is with me and with Marvin and with all for whom I have been wringing my hands.
The answer to the question posed at the beginning of this piece is clearly, YES! God’s love conquers everything: “Therefore, the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” (Isa. 51:11)
Father, You continually make all situations peaceful and secure by Your presence and power, for which we thank You. We surrender our pride in our own abilities, resting in Your work which was finished before the foundation of the world. Because you WALK with us, we will never be lonely; because You FEED us, we will never be hungry; because You LOVE us unconditionally, we will never be fearful; because You continually FORGIVE us, we never have to feel guilty; because You PROVIDE for us, we will never be in want. Most of all we thank you that even though the skirmishes go on, THE BATTLE HAS BEEN WON IN CHRIST! No matter how many times we fail to trust you, YOU CANNOT FAIL TO DELIVER US FROM OURSELVES! We love You and worship You for You alone are worthy of praise and honor and glory, now and forever, amen.