When I was the Drug Court prosecutor for Jefferson County, I got to know some exceptional people who had come about as close to rock bottom as anyone would ever get. Their substance abuse addiction was problem enough, but it cascaded into a never-ending and ever-growing black hole of helplessness, hopelessness and despair. Because of their addiction many, if not most, had become estranged from their families and loved ones, had amassed a criminal record making employment challenging, had hundreds of dollars in unpaid fines hanging over their heads which led to a suspended driver’s license which impeded their ability to get to a job, had racked up thousands of dollars in unpaid child support which led to a garnishment of their wages if and when they had a job, and had no place to stay that was drug and alcohol free. The Drug Court team’s job was to help them address these problems so they could move forward and regain a sense of stability and normalcy. Often times one of them would lament that the problems were too many and that there was no use in even trying. They had given up and thrown in the towel resigning themselves to a bleak future. I would ask them if they knew how to eat an elephant and, if they didn’t know the answer, I’d tell them “one bite at a time.” We’d focus on the most pressing issue and then start chipping away at the others starting first with the easier fixes to help build confidence and create a forward and positive movement, all-the-while watching for any triggers that could bring on a relapse.
As I worked the program along with them, I began to see many similarities that also applied to how we “normal” people manage our complex and challenging lives. The basics of a 12-step program and a life in Christ, is to admit we are powerless over sin and that our lives have become unmanageable. We must come to believe that a life in Jesus Christ can restore us to a life of peace and we then make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. At this point we make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and admit to God and ourselves the exact nature of our wrongs. We then are entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character and we humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings.
In our scripture reading for this morning, Jesus teaches about worry. He knows there are times when we will become discouraged and worry about what tomorrow will bring, especially when it seems that no matter what we do, nothing works. He says not to worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. He asks; Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Comforting words of assurance for sure, but when you’re buried under a mountain of debt, or are suffering from some sort of addiction like drugs, alcohol, gambling or pornography, or are about to lose your job or your house, or aren’t sure where your next meal is coming from or where you will sleep tonight, they don’t do much to meet the immediate problem. This creates a real crisis of confidence for me when someone comes in for help and all I’m able to offer is a QFC gift card, words of assurance and a prayer. They’re thankful, but I’ve hardly given them any hope for the future. Before they leave I get a good mailing address for them and follow up with a note of encouragement, one of my cross pennies, and a Starbuck’s gift card. I’ll then wait a week or two and send a copy of the Upper Room or a New Testament with another note of encouragement and an invite to attend church. But still, how do you give them the assurance better times are ahead when they might be thinking of taking their own life as their only alternative? I recently had one tearful woman promise to come back if she needed anything else. Her desperation was palpable, so intense and real, as real as her tears.
Jesus asks; why do we worry about what we’re going to wear? He tells us to consider the lilies of the field and how he has clothed them in all their splendor. If that’s how God clothes the grasses of the field, which are here today and gone tomorrow, will he not much more clothe you, he asks. He then says; So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ He points out that the pagans, the non-believers, run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. He tells us to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, he says, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Maybe that’s why we’re here. God is using us to be the answer to the prayers of others. God sends these people to us so we can feed and clothe them. God has blessed us with an abundance and has given us the Holy Spirit to guide and move us, and it seems like the more people we help, the more people he sends us.
But still we worry. We’ve got our own set of problems to deal with. Worry can be immobilizing. Worry may: 1) damage your health, 2) cause the object of your worry to consume your thoughts, 3) disrupt your productivity, 4) negatively affect the way you treat others, and 5) reduce your ability trust in God, and you don’t have near the problems some of these people have. But we can take comfort in the words of the Bible. The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5: 7, tells you to cast your cares upon Him, for he cares for you. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6,7. And, Jesus said in John 14: 27; Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
To seek first his kingdom and righteousness mean to turn to God first for help, to fill your thoughts with his desires, to take his character for your pattern, and to serve and obey him in everything. Put God first and the rest will take care of itself.
So we look back to the 12-step process and seek through prayer and meditation to improve our relationship with God, praying for knowledge of His will for us, and the power to carry it out. As a result, we’ve had a spiritual awakening as a result of our growing relationship with God and we carry this message of a new life to other sinners and work to continue refining our Christian walk in all our affairs as we eat the elephant of despair and worry one bite at a time.
Please pray with me.
Most merciful and compassionate Father, when the storms of life are raging stand by us. When the world is tossing us about like a ship on the sea, we know you are in control and will calm the waters. In the midst of our faults and failures and when our strength begins to fail, stand by us. In the midst of our persecutions when our foes line up against us and work tirelessly to keep us down, stand by us. When we grow tired and weary and our life begins to be a burden, lift us up. Hold us in your loving arms, grant us rest and peace, take us by the hand and lead us on through the storm placing our feet on solid ground. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.