03-24-2020 – Blessing and Not Stressing
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am GOD, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you”: (Isaiah 43:1-2 Message)

I have read this passage for years and meditated upon it and quoted it in difficult situations. It is a reminder to me that God is with me in my struggles and not to be overwhelmed. It became personal for me in January when I went snowshoeing on the pond behind our house.  As I shared the following Sunday in worship, I was on Facebook live and encouraging others to get outside their homes to enjoy the fine January snowstorm. As I was talking, I suddenly fell through the ice. I dropped my phone and I put my arms out to catch myself.  I realized I was about to be pulled under and would probably drown. I literally was in over my head and holding myself up by my arms and losing my grip. Time seemed to stand still as I cried out to God. Right away I heard God tell me I would be ok, and a sense of peace and calm came over me. I remembered that I had nails in my winter coat pocket thanks to ice fisherman Pastor Gordon Deuel who shared with me the importance of carrying them when Ice Fishing. I was then able to use those nails to help claw my way out of the water and pull myself on top of the ice.  The walk back home was extremely cold, but I was grateful to have survived. I thank God for the verse ringing in my mind “when you’re in over your head, I’ll be with you.”

Many of us are feeling overwhelmed right now. I have been praying with business leaders who feel like they are drowning. Some of us physically and some of us emotionally feel like we are in over our heads. We have been delivering food and supplies to families who are feeling extreme stress. Kids home from school are going stir crazy and parents are now being asked to be home school instructors. People are feeling the pressure. Some are experiencing health worries and others financial worries. It seems as though worries are closing in on us. But worry isn’t productive. In fact, it’s a failure to trust God. The word worry comes from an Old English term that means “strangle” or “choke.” That is what worry does. It chokes us. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.
Modern medical research has proven that worry breaks down our resistance to disease. A research team led by Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen has found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. It actually affects the nervous system, and more specifically, breaks down the digestive organs and the heart. In fact, 79 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians may be stress related. Stress and anxiety in our life can actually contribute to the spread of Covid-19 virus.
My wife, Pastor Deb, reminded me that “worry is the advanced interest we pay on troubles that may never come to fruition.” Studies have found that 85% of the things we worry about never happen. This means that of all the things you’re worrying about right now, 85% of it won’t happen. But what about the other 15 percent? That is when we can turn to God and allow him to help us in our time of need.
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-7 MSG)
The Apostle Paul reminds us to turn our worries into prayer. That requires developing a conditioned reflex. We all have natural reflexes, like when we touch something hot and immediately pull back. Then there’s a conditioned reflex, something that becomes natural after we’ve done it so many times.  We can’t control our world or circumstances, but we certainly can pray about it.  The next time we’re tempted to worry, let’s pray instead. During this stressful time, let us turn our worries into prayers. The next time we are stressed, let’s bless others. When we serve and give it takes the focus off of us. When we are blessing others, our stresses get released. May we all look at ways we may bless instead of stress this week.
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Questions to Consider:
1. Would you consider yourself to be a person who worries? On an average day, how often do you dwell on things that you have no control over?
2. What do you typically worry about? (relationships, career, health, etc.) 
What negative effects has worrying caused you?
3. Ask God to reveal His truth to you over the next few days in regard to worry. What can you give to God in prayer today?