My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA. I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.
During our last article, we learned about growing in wisdom. Wisdom was my heart’s desire, as it was for one of the children we worked with for many months here, Liam. Wisdom was what King Solomon was most known for, and it was something he asked God for in a dream. He wanted to rule over his people well. And he was granted his request. Godly wisdom is acquired by fearing, or honouring the Lord, and not leaning on your own earthly wisdom. Godly wisdom is a gift, and one that can be developed through inclining your spiritual ears to God for direction, and through experience. Wisdom and direction are two things that I constantly needed before I was a Christian and afterwards. I would worry so much that even my dad would quote the Bible scripture about the lilies of the field receiving care without worry.
Worrying, also known as fretting, leads to evil. When I think of the word ‘fret,’ I think of this verse: “do not fret—it leads only to evil.” I remember this verse rang in my ears during a Vineyard camp meeting we had in the 1990’s. I was a worrier. It took a lot of ministry, time and love to get the anxiety out of me. I was fearful and fidgety but I didn’t know where these emotions came from. This was in the days before soaking prayer and ‘carpet time’ were common. Holy Spirit drew many of us to abide with Jesus on the carpet so he could deal with our hearts. Of course, the very opposites of worry and fear are faith and TRUST. Do we really trust God? Even though God is endlessly faithful, many of us need to realize in our heart of hearts just how faithful God is. He isn’t like an imperfect earthly father who will let you down. He’s God. He’s master of the universe.
Corrie ten Boom once said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” [quoted in Huffington Post, Amanda Chan, “9 Scientific Ways to Stop worrying” December 6, 2017 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/stop-worrying-anxiety-cycle_n_4002914]
Worry is bad for your body as well as your soul and spirit. I learned from Caroline Thorpe on the Touching Hearts course, that too much stress can burn you out. It’s not the amount of work you do, but rather the amount of stress. Amanda Chan shares that “while worry […] spurs us into action, too much of it can lead to anxiety, which can have a lasting impact on health and happiness. For instance, research has shown that anxiety can take a toll on sleep, tax your immune system, raise your risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, and even affect your risk of dying from disease.” [Huffington Post, Amanda Chan] Chan also shares nine “scientific” ways to stop worrying. These include: setting aside a designated worry time, kicking online addictions to social media, being mindful in choosing to think positively of solutions, instead of panicking, accepting the worry situation and moving on, writing your worries down, giving yourself a break, keeping your hands busy, making time to stop, breathe and pray, and ninth, to do some activity. Go out and exercise. Except for the way of prayer, most of these are quite practical. I found it interesting that Chan mentions keeping a designated worry time. She says that if you have a specific time to work out items that you are worried about and keep it to that time, it’s actually a good discipline to cope from overwhelming worry taking over all of your time. One stipulation during the worry time is to think of positive solutions; one is beginning to train the mind to think positively and to not panic. This isn’t an invitation to a pity party. Pity parties only invite you to dig a hole and disappear into it. We don’t want that. Pursuing FaceBook also does not help when you’re in a worry mode. It can make matters worse, and in fact even create an atmosphere of fretting. Accepting the worry voice inside you may help you cope better than intentionally suppressing worry. After all, the matter you are fretting about may be a legitimate one. However, you can limit the worry, so it doesn’t become an obsession. That’s where Holy Spirit comes in with His peace. It takes time to root out the issues that may be triggered by fretting. But are you willing? Find a good Christian counsellor, or a good person skilled in inner healing prayer.
Writing your concerns down on paper also helps bring distance to the matter. Sometimes your worries are fuzzy, condemning thoughts. Those aren’t from you. Don’t accept them. Tell them to leave in Jesus’ name. God’s Holy Spirit never condemns. He convicts. He leads us to the cross, has us repent, and then he touches and heals us. That is good. Condemnation is BAD. But when you write down your own thoughts, and come back to the journal later, you will find you feel better. You can reassess the situation and possibly see solutions.
Chan also advises to “cut yourself some slack.” Some people worry about the funniest things. For example, if one was worried about your health, and thought you had to eat blueberries every day, and they weren’t always available, you may worry that you could get sick. Nonsense! There are plenty of other anti-oxidants. Give yourself leeway and live life. Most people worry about things that won’t happen or about things that won’t matter in a week, let alone a year. Next on the list is keeping your hands busy. Some people knit or crochet. I draw. There was a reason why my chemotherapy nurses invited me to draw in the chemo room. I’ve also kept busy continuing to draw at home. It’s kept my hands and mind busy while we’ve been going through multiple challenges. For me, it’s a matter of TRUST. This means I’ve put the situation I’m concerned about in God’s hands, and to keep myself from worrying, I intentionally pour myself into drawing. It’s an act of worship that takes my whole being. During that time, I’m also praying – not only for my concerns, but other things as well. I turn on worship music and even sing. This takes my mind and heart off the concerns, and puts my focus on God. That’s a sure way of letting go of fretting.
Sometimes you can also burn off the energy that comes from anxiety, into a good way to both use up and generate better energy. This is to exercise – to run, walk and be active. I remember I had six months with my friend Lynn, exercising together in her basement. She coached me in stretching, walking on her treadmill, climbing stairs, and other gentle ways to gain core body strength. I found this bonded me to my exercise partner, as well as give me more resilience in walking. This was very much needed later, while Tony and I were in Mozambique. The base where we took the Iris Harvest School was on a steep hill, and we were walking all the time. There were times that I struggled emotionally, since the school curriculum and life is based on much younger people. However, through the Holy Spirit and determination I persevered. The exercise was good for me, and even allowed me to purge any frustrations and grumblings that I temporarily felt. By the time I got to my destination, I was fine.
Notice that I used the word grumblings. Natalie Savvides notes that to fret is to “be constantly or visibly anxious. [It also] gradually wears away something by rubbing or gnawing.” [Natalie Savviddes, “Fretting – Is it Really worth it?” Huffington Post, September 13, 2016. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/natalie-savvides/fretting-is-it-really-worthit]
She notes that in twenty years, she had to question whether constant fretting […] served any purpose. Fretting and worrying speed you into the far future, where you worry about what may or may not happen. However, we need to stop and enjoy the moment. God works in the moment. He tells us in Psalm 46:10 to be still and know that He is God. This word was not given during a quiet time in the valley. It was given in the midst of a battle! Natalie shares,” It’s important to be present in the moment, to live the day, absorb it and notice what’s going on around us.” [Natalie Savviddes]
John McArthur states that “we all have to admit that worry is a common temptation in life – for many, it’s a favourite pastime.” [John McArthur, “A Worried Christian”https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A112/a-worried-christian] He shares that the US is one of the most worry-filled societies. What did Jesus say about worry? “Jesus categorically prohibited worry […] as shown in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34. Three times […] Jesus commanded, “Do not worry!” The way He said it shows the fullness of what he meant. In verse 25 he shows worry as a common practice. He says, “Stop worrying.” In verses 31 and 34 He uses the same word, but in a way that means, “Don’t even start worrying.” [John McArthur]. It is clear that Jesus thought worrying is not only a waste of time, but it’s a dangerous practice. God wants good things for us, and worry is not one of them.
Think of it this way: worry is not trivial. John McArthur suspects that a majority of mental illnesses are directly related to worry. Many cases of drunkenness and drug addiction are symptomatic of worry. And because of worry, many people make foolish life decisions, which bring painful consequences. Worry is devastating in daily life. But think of what is also does in your relationship with God. McArthur notes, “When you worry, you are saying in effect, ‘God, I just don’t think I can trust you.’ Worry strikes a blow at the person and character of God.” [McArthur, “ Worried Christian] In effect, when you worry, you make your circumstances, or your desires huge, when in fact, they are tiny, next to God’s love, power and faithfulness.
So you want to give up this burden of worries and cares. It’s heavy. Give it to Jesus!
At this moment, I’m thinking of a chorus based on 1 Peter 5:7. It’s the song that goes, “Cast your burdens onto Jesus, he cares for you, cast your burdens onto Jesus, he cares for you. Higher, higher. Higher, higher. Higher, higher, lift Jesus higher. Lower, lower. Lower lower. Lower, lower, stomp Satan lower.” This is what we need to do. So we offer our cares to him.
Don’t let worry steal your joy anymore. Worry is basically fear, shrouded in all kinds of unhelpful stuff. And fear is cast out by God’s perfect love. So, as you offer your burdens, one by one, let his peace wash over you. And then wait in his presence.
If you still struggle and fidget while waiting try these methods to stop panic attacks. One. Tell yourself to stop. Take a breath. And then slowly count to ten. Inhale and exhale, one, and repeat to ten. Think of the numbers. By ten, your heart rate should be lower. Two, think about what the root cause of the fear is. Now that you know, you can deal with it in a positive way. Three, pray about it. Yes you offered the burden to God, but you can still pray, and offer up your feelings, and anything else connected with it. Philippians 4: 6-7 remind us to not “worry about anything; [but] instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” So rest in the peace that comes as you pray and afterwards as you are still in your heart. Four, start counting your blessings and thank God for each of them. You may have been so worried about one thing but then you have forgotten God’s faithfulness in other areas of your life. They may be too many to mention here. I’m sure you can think of at least three. Think on these. And step five? Repeat as necessary. Holy Spirit is near you. Remember that the next time you panic, He is there holding you. You do not need to take on the world. It will carry on without you. This is a good time to start to live in joy. This means to live in the moment and to enjoy the little blessings. God often blesses us with many small blessings in everyday life. We call these the kindnesses of God. Begin to think of all the little blessings you had today. I’m sure that there are many more than one! [Steps (paraphrased) – by Melissa, “Stop worrying and start trusting God. Joyfulinthemundane.com]
When you intentionally take time to think on good things, we remember the words from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” If you intentionally focus on God AND on all the good things he’s put in your life, there is no room for worry. Choose instead to trust. Stop, count to ten and say, “No, I will not fret. I choose to trust God.” And choose his way of joy that comes as you contemplate the good things. Make this daily choice a part of your lifestyle. In time, the worry, panic attacks and fretting will subside. Remember, God is in control. It’s not all up to you.
Lord Jesus, we offer up our burdens, concerns and fears to you. Dissolve them in your perfect love. Lift up those who are battered by fear, and break the chains. Lift their eyes up to you. And bring your perfect peace, layer by layer in our hearts, minds, wills and spirit. in Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu). Click here: (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #72! If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!
Updates: For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork). Now my husband Tony has both skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and prostate cancer). The former in treatment, the latter monitored. It’s not life threatening thank God. We are also concerned for a newer development that the doctors guessed was TB, due to three pleural effusions (water build up in the lining of Tony’s left lung). A recent CT scan revealed the presence of a tumour the size of an egg near Tony’s heart. The radiologist doctor gave a potential diagnosis of mesiothelioma, cancer of the lung lining. While the fluid was tested as benign, we don’t know if the tumour is malignant or not. Since we are returning to Canada in December, we don’t have the time or the money to go to a chest specialist, or a potential oncologist. L-A plans to take Tony to a hospital ER in Toronto, with the CT scan and report, which can be compared with new scans later. We are sure that there is a testimony in the making, so we are choosing not to fret over Tony, but to be prayerfully hopeful. God is in control.
Otherwise, we still have medical debt and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada (we were seriously delayed due to waiting 5.5 months for our South African medical visas).
We trust we will have them in enough time to ramp up our preparations to return with the help of a very capable Cape Town travel agent. She wasn’t able to get us out sooner than December 18th. Gone are the days when we would plan our own travel online (apart from booking self-catering places).
After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad. Part of us longs for Canada, but we still greatly love South Africa. We are glad that Jesus is carrying us, since we are frail. Both of us have continuing health issues, including prostate and skin cancer, eye issues (following Tony’s retina re-attachment surgery, and possible mesiothelioma). We are also working on care for me concerning a neck/spine issue that is causing considerable pain down my right arm. It’s become increasingly painful to type, write and draw for periods of time. So I rest more. I had an MRI which showed various herniated discs and spine issues. Yet, my physiotherapist is helping me work though.
Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey. Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for lung issues, eye surgery, urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well (post cancer treatment, physiotherapy, MRI, medications).
Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html. We are still crowdfunding to cover the post cancer treatments and Tony’s eye operations. If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.” It would really bless us! If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.
L-A’s colouring books: If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape. You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson) and at Slow Living Café in Worcester. Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:
Colouring with Jesus is available here:
Colouring with Jesus 2 is available here:
The books are available online, through us personally (for a short time), and through the above shops. They will also be available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica LeGrange. After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books in English landscape format. Bless you and thank you for your support!