Wow, can it be February already?! Our “new year” is not so new anymore! As I reflected this morning on how quickly time passes, I couldn’t help but think of how much of it I waste. I’m not talking about unproductive time spent on social media or watching television, though those things can indeed be time wasters, and probably a subject for another blog post. I’m talking about time spent wasted in ungodly emotional states. Maybe you can relate? How much time have you spent afraid, worried, lonely, envious, or feeling sorry for yourself? I don’t dare even try to calculate such waste in my life. I know that I am often guilty of all of these things. There’s got to be a better way to spend what’s left of 2017! We must put off these ungodly responses. But what can we put on instead? What will help us not only to get out of these emotional states, but to stay out, and to prevent their coming back? Let’s take each one, think about what it is, and come up with something better.
Put off Fear
Fear can be very pervasive, seeping into every area of our lives. We fear other people and their opinions of us. We fear the future, health problems, car accidents, financial failure, loss of loved ones, and many other things. When fear shows up, we must battle it with trust. The Bible commands us to look to God when we are afraid. When we give in to fear, we are not trusting Him.
Put on Trust and Encouragement. What does that look like practically? Well, if you are trusting God, you will step into your day confident in His faithfulness. Your countenance, speech, and actions will reflect that trust, and others will be encouraged. You won’t spend time googling all the questions you have about the things you fear. Instead, you will pray often and share the encouragement you receive with others. This will not be something forced or fake. It will be a genuine peace rooted in trusting God…for everything.
Put off Worry
Are you a worrier? I will admit I have been at certain seasons of my life. Some of you may be chronic worriers. Perhaps you worry about your children, your parents, your plans, or your budget. There are as many things to worry about as you have time for, if that’s what you choose to do. But God says there is a better way.
Put on belief and prayer. Like fear, worry is rooted in a lack of trust in the good and sovereign God who made all those things and people you are worrying about! You and I must believe that our loving and merciful God has got this! Like the father of the boy possessed by the unclean spirit in Mark 9, we must bring our worry to Christ who says, “All things are possible for one who believes.” Even as we lay it at His feet, we can, like the man in this account, cry out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” and He will show Himself faithful. Worry that is life dominating can be driven out only by belief and prayer.
Put off Loneliness
Our world is busier, noisier, and more crowded with activity and distraction with every passing day. Yet in the midst of it, many are lonely. There can be a real sense of isolation, even (especially?) in a crowded room. This is because we are not interested in truly knowing each other. We are satisfied with a Social Media understanding of the lives of others, at the expense of the close relationships we had before the whole world was accessible by touch screen. Though we have more “friends” than ever, we are lonelier and more isolated now than we were even five years ago.
Put on Intimacy with Christ. What is lacking in our crazy busy world is intimacy. I’m not just talking about close relationships with each other, but about our relationship with the Lord. How well do you know the God you profess to love and serve? When was the last time you spent a few minutes just soaking in His Word, telling Him how much you love Him, and praising Him in your heart? Is He your best friend? The one you go to first when you are fearful or sad? If not, this may be the reason you experience loneliness. Jesus is the only friend who is available 24/7/365. He will never leave you or forsake you. The amazing thing about Him is that, as you deepen your friendship with Him, you will find that you are less needy of others. When Jesus is close to you, your spirit rests in His, and that hollow space is filled with a sense of intimacy that only a right relationship with the Lord can bring.
Put off Self-Pity
If there is one emotional time and energy waster of which I am guilty, it is self-pity. Even before my physical challenges came along, I struggled with this one. It is so easy to become self-focused when life gets hard. For most of us, our default response is, “How will this affect me?” But the Bible is clear that this is not a godly response. The next time you feel self-pity or self-focus coming on, read through Philippians 2. Paul gives us clear admonitions here that we are to count others as more important than ourselves.
Put on Christ. The best way to stop thinking of yourself is to start thinking of Jesus. Colossians 3 tells us to set our mind on things above, not on things of the earth, and that includes whatever is bringing out our self-pity. As we look to Christ, we experience His compassionate love for us, and we must follow His example. When His life was hard—even at the point of His death—was He thinking of Himself? No, He was thinking of you and me and the whole world. So, when self-pity tempts you, put off thinking of yourself, and reach out in compassion to others who may be hurting even more than you.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here? The solution to all of these time-wasting emotional states is to look to Christ and away from ourselves and whatever is bringing out these emotions in us. The only way truly to stop wasting time on feelings that lead us to sin is to deny their right to overtake our thoughts and actions. We do this by trusting God with all of life, all the time. Now, it is very easy to type that sentence, but you and I know that it can be difficult to live it out. Here is a question to ask yourself as you work to overcome emotional bondage: You are going to trust someone with your life. Who will it be? All other sources of help are fallible and ever-changing. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is a faithful and true Friend.
Do you want to spend 2017 in slavery to fear, worry, loneliness and self-pity? I don’t! I refuse to waste my time and energy worrying and fretting about this life. So in the words of the old hymn, “Trust and obey. For there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”