Let it Go – Control
Friday morning, I decided to sleep in a bit.
It was raining – hard.
But then I heard a whine from the bottom of the stairs.
Then another but different whine.
It was my dogs.
I looked at the clock.
It was 7 o’clock.
My usual routine in the morning is to take Lucy and Roxy to a local cemetery for their run.
We leave the house about 6:30.
It’s their routine, too.
They might be dogs, but they know the time.
They were ready to go a half hour ago.
The whining was to let me know that.
To remind me.
To tell me they were not happy that the routine had been violated.
I was, and am, sympathetic.
One of the things I crave in my life is a sense of rhythm.
I like routine.
I like predictability.
It is comfortable.
It gives me peace.
I feel in control.
Psychologists, I think, would agree.
Routine and predictability give us the feeling that we are in control of our lives.
Control even over the world around us, or at least the way we interact with it.
So, what happens when all that goes away?
What happens when it seems our world descends into chaos?
The routine is gone.
There is no predictability.
We feel like we have no control.
We get anxious, angry, frustrated, depressed.
We grieve over the loss of routines, the loss of certainty.
The coronavirus pandemic has destroyed just about every one of our routines.
And we are struggling emotionally.
We are anxious, angry, frustrated, depressed.
We ruminate on our lost perception that we are healthy and safe.
So, what do we do?
We need to recognize that we cannot control everything.
We need to let it go.
Letting go of control is not that “let go and let God” meme.
That implies that we just stay in bed and let God take care of us.
That is not a good theology.
Letting go of control is first learning how we can be calm in a crisis.
And second to do some small thing to make things a bit better.
First, let’s talk about staying calm.
This requires some effort.
We have many worries.
I will not give you my list.
We all have our own.
So, how doe we remain calm with all these worries?
We read Paul.
Philippians 4: 6-7
6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul is not saying that there is no reason to worry.
Not “let go and let God”.
What Paul says is we should offer all our worries to God in prayer.
Not expecting God to make the things you are worried about go away.
But we expect our prayers to give us some peace.
The peace of knowing that Go dis right there with us.
Paul simply says that when we pray, we are given the peace of God.
God can calm us down.
We can then go about the business of our daily lives, meeting our needs and the needs of those around us.
Easier said than done.
The trouble is that in times like these, we can become overwhelmed with our worries.
We can’t find the words that express our pleas to God.
We don’t know what to say.
Thera re too many things we want to say.
So, here is some good news.
The Bible gives us words that we can use in prayer, even when we can’t find the words.
Try Psalm 3.
A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.
1 O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying to me,
‘There is no help for you in God.’
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
4 I cry aloud to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy hill.
5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
6 I am not afraid of tens of thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Rise up, O Lord!
Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
may your blessing be on your people!
Psalm 3 is a “prayer for help of an individual”.
A plea for help.
A statement of trust that God will respond.
Then there is the Lord’s prayer.
The Lord’s prayer is the same thing.
It is a Psalm seeking God’s presence and help in our lives.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
It calls on God for help.
It proclaims trust that God will respond.
And when you offer these prayers, insert your list of worries.
When you pray Psalm 3, tell God about your many foes.
Like the coronavirus, loneliness, fear and sadness you are feeling.
When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, tell God about the bread, forgiveness and protection from the evil that comes after you.
Like the empty shelves, the anger you feel, and the temptation to ignore public health warnings.
An while you are listing these things, do not be afraid to say it how you feel it.
After all this, then pause.
Take a deep breath and be present with God.
It is then that Paul says the peace of God surrounds our hearts and minds.
Let God be a non-anxious presence in our lives.
Then we can do something.
What do we do?
Jesus says this:
33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
What does that look like today?
Thursday when I was on a video conference about communicating with congregations as we shelter-in-place, I heard something I needed to hear.
Something we all need to hear.
“The best demonstration of Christian love during the pandemic is not being together.”
Love neighbor – don’t spread the virus.
But there are other things we can do.
As I was reading in preparation for Sunday’s message, I came across an article from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
It had what I believe to be a good list of things to do in times like these.
Here at JMPC we do that.
Email your prayer concerns and joys.
We have a prayer team that is waiting to pray with you and for you.
One way to do this is to use Facebook or Zoom or YouTube so that there is more of a personal presence. We will need to figure out the best way to do that.
Immerse yourself in the Bible.
While our Bible studies are on hiatus, the daily devotionals will have to fill this need.
But these do not replace the need to pull out your Bible and read.
Particularly with your kids.
Guard your heart.
This means to turn off the news, stop reading the “click bait” on social media and promote real science information from the WHO, CDC and the PA Department of Health.
While the recommendations do seem to change daily, it is entirely appropriate to disengage and distract your anxious thoughts with books, movies, puzzles, games, cooking, exercise, music, etc. …
Care for others. I
f you know anyone who is alone, call them and say hello.
If you know anyone who is unemployed, call them and ask if they need anything.
If you know anyone who is overwhelmed, call them and offer a few kind words and some encouragement.
If you know someone who needs food, go to the store for them and drop off the food at their door.
At JMPC, we will continue to support SHIM, First Pres. Of Duquesne and Family Promise financially as they try to keep their ministries going.
Support crisis ministry.
Be sure to encourage other agencies and volunteers who are trying to do “one small thing” to help people in crisis.
We do what we can today.
Tomorrow will be a new day, with new things to pray for and do something about.
All of these things are available to each of us during this time of crisis and are ways we can strive for the Kingdom of God.
When we do these things, making them routine, we will feel a bit more in control.
We will feel the peace of God.
And then we can pray a different kind of Psalm.
A Psalm of Thanksgiving
A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David.
1 I will praise you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
‘I shall never be moved.’
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made appeal:
9 ‘What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!’
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.