Borrowed Trouble


She stood shaking on the side of the pool. At age ten, she desperately wanted to learn to dive. But each time she tried she ended up looking like a pretzel falling into the water. Head pointing down but feet curled up in a cannon ball-like pose, poor Jaime just couldn’t do it.

It didn’t matter how many times her dad and I tried to coerce her or how often we gently put her into the right position. She just couldn’t overcome the fear of letting herself fall into the water without the reflex to protect herself. Poor thing. She couldn’t even explain what she was afraid of!

Summer after summer she tried again. And again. Suddenly it happened. In her early 20’s she dove into the pool. Her shocked family clapped and cheered. She acted like she’d been doing it for years.

Sometimes we don’t know why we’re unable to do something. We’re afraid of something — and don’t know what it is. Self-protective reflexes kick in: defenses; withholding honest information about what we’re going through; fear of being hurt (again); unconfessed sin; anxious thoughts about being misunderstood.

The puritans used to call it “borrowing trouble.”

Jaime watched person after person dive into the pool without cracking their head open on the bottom of the pool or drowning. Time and time again she played Marco Polo without being able to get into the pool quickly like her siblings and friends. She felt uncoordinated — even though she tore it up on the basketball court. There was something, though, that made her fearful of thrusting herself head first into the pool. Something irrational but nevertheless real.

I’ve been borrowing trouble recently. And trouble isn’t worth borrowing. The Bible says today has “enough troubles of its own” — so why borrow more from the future? Why reach into an unknown future, whether days or weeks or years ahead, and borrow things that may not even happen? And even if the trouble we think may come does in fact happen, tomorrow’s grace and help can’t be borrowed either. Today has it’s own trouble and grace.

What Jaime didn’t know was that one day she would get the courage to go head first into the water. Once she did it, the anxiety would be replaced with joy…and she can now assure her kids that there is really nothing to fear.

Are you facing something or someone that is tempting you to be afraid? Do you find yourself borrowing trouble from an unknown, uncertain future? Is there a refreshing pool of water in front of you that you can’t enjoy because you’re afraid to dive in?

No worries. No amount of coercing from yourself or others is going to help you. The only thing that will help is your decision to just go for it and trust God to let you experience the joy that courage brings.

More on that next time.

If I Don’t Worry, Who Will?

I have a love – hate relationship with Facebook. I enjoy the picture part. As a photography hobbyist I enjoying sharing pictures (especially of my eleven Little People) and seeing pics of others kids and grandkids. I also enjoy the quote part. It seems that God repeatedly uses quotes people post to be just what I need on a given day.

Anyone who knows me well knows I love Charles Spurgeon. I’m sure I would have been one of the thousands of recipients of his pastoral care and anointed preaching at the Metropolitan Tabernacle if I had lived in England in the late 1800’s. I’m grateful that the internet provides access to the sermons of lots of dead guys, including him.

Here’s the quote that ministered to my heart yesterday:

“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul” (Ps. 94:19) Turn your eyes to the deep things of God. Cease from an anxious consideration of seen things, which are temporary, and gaze by faith on the things that are eternal. Remember, your way is ordered by a higher power than your will and choice. The eternal God has fixed your every step. All things are fixed by the Father’s hand. He who loved us from before the foundations of the world has immutably determined every step of our pilgrimage. It is a blessed thing, after you have been muddling and meddling with your anxieties, to throw your burdens on the Lord and leave them there.”

Like me, are there things weighing on your heart today?

  • Financial worries.
  • Tension in your marriage.
  • Anxieties about a wayward young adult.
  • Health concerns.
  • Spiritual drift in your heart that leaves you wondering if God cares.
  • Discouragement over years of unplanned singleness.
  • Strife between your children.

I’m worried about some stuff, too. Sometimes the “be anxious for nothing” warning in Philippians 4:6 is not only elusive but can also feel a tad simplistic. Do you know what I mean? The commands of scripture can seem  like putting a bandaid on a deep wound; it’s just not easy to stop worrying when something heavy is weighing on your heart and mind. “Don’t be anxious” feels like a denial of reality.

“If I don’t worry, who will????”

Yet Mr. Spurgeon is right! And I’ve been doing some muddling and meddling  with my anxieties. After awhile of splashing around in the mud of cares tempting me to doubt God’s love and control I’ve decided (with His help, of course) to throw my burdens on the Lord. After several days of meddling in God’s business of controlling the universe (including my little part of it) He’s helping me to agree that He is fully capable to keeping things from spinning out of control, even though it feels to me at times that need to take charge.

I love Spurgeon’s choice of words. I’m not just “casting” my worries onto Him gently, like a fisherman casts his line into the water. But throwing them on Him forcefully, like a quarterback heaves the ball with all his might to a waiting receiver.

Are a multitude of anxieties pulling at your heart? Join me today in remembering that the God who has been and always will be is superintending every thing that happens. He’s the same God who then “causes all things to work together for good.”

And He loves us.

What Forgetting His Wedding Vows Taught Ed

I’ve been blogging some about anxiety recently and wanted to share this helpful article by Ed Welch of CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation).  It was originally published in November 2010 on their website at  Really good stuff.

“When crises hit, everyone needs emergency numbers, and we must know them instinctively.

For our wedding, I wrote my own wedding vows and memorized them. The practice was popular then, less so now. When it was my turn to recite my vows and promises I, of course, went completely blank. Completely. But wait. A copy of the vows was in my pocket! The problem was that my mind went completely blank. I forgot it was there (and, knowing myself, my hands were probably in my pockets). All I could do was mindlessly repeat some of the vows that Sheri had just said to me. I hope I didn’t say, “I Sheri take you Ed,” but I can’t be sure. At the end of my vows I at least had the presence of mind to say, “And there is more I will tell you, but I can’t remember it right now.” I am very grateful that the quality of the vows don’t make a wedding official. We just need to get out a barely audible, “I do,” which I did…I think.

When emotions are strong, we need emergency “numbers”—not vows usually—but Scripture. When crises hit and minds go blank, we need simple biblical truths that can penetrate the fog of nothingness or panic.

And I do mean simple. Are you memorizing some of the great passages in Romans? You are blessed. But in a crisis—fugedaboutit. All that’s left are a few phrases from Psalm 23 and John 3:16, both in the King James Version.

I remember David Powlison saying that during a hospital stay, while in significant pain, he had access to one phrase, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps.46:1), and it was enough. It was both a reminder and a hope. It shaped his prayer. It was his prayer. Years of meditation in Scripture left him with an emergency number.

In my own most recent mini-crisis I was so thankful for truths that came quickly to mind. Three connected teachings became my emergency numbers:

  1. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Pet.5:7)
  2. God is good
  3. God is liberal – he gives in abundance.

I needed all of them.

I Peter 5:7 had recently replaced the biblical teaching on manna as my go-to passage. I especially needed the introduction to this verse, “Humble yourselves.” Casting our anxieties on the Lord is the fruit of walking humbly before him, and, in my own case, confessing my pride. Without that larger context, the verse is meaningful but ineffective.

“God is good.” I had been reflecting on that from a Sunday interchange, “God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.” God’s goodness was, apparently, a big deal and I wanted to consider this attribute more carefully. Basically, I understood it to mean that God, for reasons I will never understand, is inclined to show us favor.

God’s generosity? That one was critical. My mini-crisis was such that I didn’t think I would be able to survive on the thought that God doled out grace only as needed. I had to know that he poured out his goodness so they we can’t contain or grasp it all. His style is to give until his gift spills all over everything (e.g., 2 Cor.1).

I certainly commend this three-some. The Spirit planted them deep in my heart when the emergency alarms were starting to ring. But my interest is more that every follower of Christ has his or her own passages during times of trouble.

Here is the short list of personal experiences that need emergency numbers.

  • Suffering of any kind
  • Fears
  • Anger
  • Temptations to sin

If you are in a close relationship, you also need an emergency number, which can double as a purpose statement. For example, “love more than need, love more than need.” This particular emergency number is not a specific passage but it is a faithful and succinct summary of a cluster of biblical passages on love.

The criteria for these passages are fairly simple.

There is no such thing as cheating with this one. Ask your friends or wise mentors for their passages. Feel free to shamelessly rip off their favorites. And talk about your own, so others can try what has been helpful for you.”

A 50-year-old Abduction Story is Still Teaching Me

I’m battling some anxiety about things these days. But that’s not new. Fearful thoughts have plagued me for years. It seems to have started with an attempted abduction by a creepy stranger when I was seven. I don’t know if my bouts with anxiety are somehow connected to that — could be unrelated. But that’s the first time I remember feeling afraid. Really afraid.

In the small town of Greenbelt, Maryland in the early 60’s the local police had started doing presentations at elementary schools about how to respond if a stranger approaches. They had come to Center Elementary School to speak to some wide-eyed kids, including me.  I remember thinking no such thing would ever happen in our little town where everyone knew everyone and kids ran around safely without concern about bad guys showing up. Why would a stranger think a kid would fall for getting in his car to find a lost dog or get candy anyway? That was just silly.

I was shocked to find this picture of the detached garages in Greenbelt similar to the one where my friend was abducted. Photo credit:

Just one week later, Pam and I rounded the corner after school to walk through a row of garages and he was there leaning against the back of a blue car. Smiling. Asking our names. Inviting us to go with him to get ice cream on that warm spring day. I studied his face; made a mental note of the color of his car; and memorized his license plate number. Just doing what the police said I should.

The problem was telling my parents. You see, my friend agreed to go with him!  I couldn’t believe it. Pam was in the same police presentation as I was. Yet when I tried to pull her away she pulled against me, trying to get me to come along. As I turned to run he said, “Hey!” I turned. “If you tell anyone about this I will find you and hurt you,” he said with a firm but hushed voice. I can still see his dark, glaring eyes.

I couldn’t fall asleep that night. I kept seeing those eyes and rehearsing his license plate number, afraid I would forget. I remember thinking I didn’t want him to find me…or my baby brother who was in a crib in my parents room next door. I wrestled with whether or not to tell my parents. Finally, I rushed to their room sobbing. Within hours the police had picked up the mean-eyed man; discovered that Pam had been returned home (my parents never told me if she had been harmed); and called us in for the lineup.

The weeks…or was it months?…between his arrest and the court date seemed to take forever.  My parents told me not to be afraid because the police told him he could never come back into Greenbelt. Back then, kids were told not to tell their friends about stuff like this to avoid a panic. Pam didn’t come back to school and ended up moving. I remember walking to school with my neighborhood friends and feeling scared that he was lurking. I didn’t tell my parents I was scared. I wanted to be brave; to live up to the police commendation of me being such a courageous and smart girl.

Years later it came up that I really was scared for those tense weekday walks to school and back before the trial. Mom was sad that I hadn’t told them. It was then I learned a police escort followed my friends and me daily…unseen.

Today I’m thinking about those days. Sometimes when I’m afraid I’m still hesitant to admit it. I want to be brave and not cowardly. I want to “live up” to the encouragement I’ve received about walking through difficulties with a trusting heart. I’m realizing that there’s still a bit of that little blonde seven-year-old still inside who wants to keep my fears quiet so everyone will think well of me.

I’m in pretty good company. In Philippians 2 Paul talks about sending Epaphroditus to Philipi so check on everyone so that he “might be less anxious.” And in 2 Corinthians 4:8 he speaks of “being perplexed, but not driven to despair.” The apostle who warned us to be “anxious for nothing” struggled himself with anxious and perplexing thoughts.

Are you anxious? Fretful about money; a needed job; a struggling or wayward child; years of singleness adding up; a difficult situation with a friend; ongoing challenges in your marriage?

You’re not alone. Temptations to fear are common. Trusting God, as a pastor friend of ours once said, “can be just plain hard work sometimes.” It’s hard for me right now in some areas. Yesterday I told Benny about my fears. It wasn’t easy. I felt childish and vulnerable and not brave. Yet there’s peace in being known as one who struggles with the common temptations of believers throughout history. Paul didn’t hide his anxiety and perplexity and neither should I.

I want to deal with my anxiety; to see it for what it is — a common but treasonous response to hard things that tempt me to doubt God’s proven faithfulness, protection, provision and care.

Today I’m reminded that Someone is watching over me. He’s with me everywhere.  And He’s not watching from an unseen distance but dwells in me. Because He was willing to die on my behalf as proof there is nothing He is unwilling to do to love and care for me, I can repent of my anxious thoughts and cry out to Him for fresh faith.

I can trust Someone who has demonstrated His unrelenting commitment to help me, even when the help I need is to believe He’s still actively and lovingly there. Only God could use something that happened to me 50 years ago — something scary and bad — to remind me of His watchful care.

His eye is on the sparrow — and I know He watches me.