There is a tree in my neighborhood that makes me grieve every time I walk past. Tall and stately, it grew past the housetops years ago. Because we live in a semi-arid climate, I know this tree didn’t just appear on its own. It was once planted and watered by someone who desired its beauty and saw its potential of shade.
Today, it still stands with life in its boughs. But, there is something extra — a destructive vine which has attached itself at the base of the trunk. Over the years, the vine has eased its way up the tree and to date, the vine has choked the life out of at least half of the tree’s branches. Year after year, we have watched the vine slowly take over the tree. This spring, as life pops out of the ground with vibrance, this tree dies a slow death by suffocation.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus speaks of people who, like the tree, are slowly being choked of life.“These are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries…and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14).
No matter their good deeds, worry chokes fruitfulness.
I’ve seen the tendency in my own life. I desire to be a blessing to someone’s need, but then can’t leave those needs in the Hand of Jehovah Jireh (“the Lord will provide”, Genesis 22:14), I negate my energies by preforming them in my flesh (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). “Whatever is not of faith, is sin” (Romans 14:23). No matter what I do, if my actions are performed with anxiety rather than faith, they are fleshly and don’t please God (Romans 8:8).
I’ve memorized, quoted, and sang Philippians 4:6 to “Be anxious for nothing.” Why then do I exit this command to turn and feed the thorny vine of worry? I jump back onto the hamster wheel of doubt, rather than believing the Lifeline of Truth.
So what is the key? How do we break out of our propensity to worry?
Praise is our strength. He will accomplish the difficulty Himself as we answer every temptation to worry by literally speaking out praise.
Hear the encouragement from the story of Jehoshaphat:
“Now it came about …that the sons of Moab and the sons of Ammon, together with some of the Meunites, came to make war against Jehoshaphat…And Jehoshaphat was afraid (worried!)….
“Then Jehoshaphat…said, ‘O our God…we are powerless before the great multitude…nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee’…
“And the Spirit of the Lord…said…’Do not fear or be dismayed (worried!)…for the battle is not yours but God’s…You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.’
“And Jehoshaphat bowed his head… to the ground, and all Judah…worshiping the Lord.
“And when they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes” (2 Chronicles 20:1,5,12,14-15,17-18,22).
I want to challenge you in regard to your worries. Instead of letting them choke out your joy, kindness, and patience, take this week to meet every anxiety with a voice of praise.
Your head says, “I am overwhelmed and have no way out.”
You counter with, “Praise the Lord that He is mighty. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, He will revive me. He will save me. He will accomplish what concerns me with His everlasting lovingkindness” (Psalm 138:7-8).
Your little voice says, “This situation is out to get me. It is going to take me under.”
Your reject it with, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all my iniquities and heals all my diseases” (Psalm 103:1-3).
Can’t get to your Bible when the worrisome thought arrives? Belt out a praise song! Actively confront the anxiety of the evil one with Truth in song. By praising Him, you effectually force the fleshly, anxious part of you to bless instead of curse (Psalm 145:21; 1 Peter 3:9).
Praise is the only way to get that worrisome voice to shut up. It effectively hacks down the creeping vine that is killing your tree. When your mouth offers praise, then your thoughts and emotions settle down into contentment (Psalm 63:5)!
“Give praise to our God, all you His bond servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.”
(And your response is:)
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns” (Revelation 19:5-6).
Beach photography courtesy of Sara Jeng Grewar. Follow her on Instagram!