Summer comes. Summer goes. But one thing about summer, it can be more busy than other times of the year. So this Pessimism Part 2 / Optimism Part 1 has been sitting on the shelf for a while. Since my last post, I’ve spent a week at the beach with family, started a new role at work, read a lot, reconnected with a bunch of people, gone for a lot of bike rides, and relaxed in some of the nicest weather we’ve had in a long while. I also reached and crossed over the half century mark. 🙂
So that one little prayer, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner” caused me a lot of angst. But two things happened that freed me from constantly beating myself up, and being a (almost completely) negative thinker. This post describes the first step.
I heard someone (I’ll call him Ted) mention Philippians 4:13, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Ted said that every time he recited this verse, amazing things happened. And when he didn’t, or when he didn’t pray it sincerely, things didn’t go as well. He told me that when he played football this prayer gave him the strength to be a hard hitting, aggressive linebacker, and his team would usually win.
So I asked Ted what happened when other people on the opposing teams prayed this verse as well? Or if he applied it to taking tests? Or driving in hazardous weather? Or…? He admitted that he mostly prayed Philippians 4:13 when he played sports. Especially in games. Ted’s answers were vague on the outcomes related to insincerity or intensity of the prayer.
A lot of people have used this verse as a personal best, and so I had to admit, this little prayer seemed to be exactly what I needed. So I tried it in place of the sinner’s prayer… and my results were at best inconclusive. It just didn’t seem to work. Or make sense. And if this was the formula to success, wouldn’t it be explicitly stated somewhere in the Bible? And then it dawned on me, “Had I read the scripture?” (the answer was no, I had not… a little lesson to explore another time).
So some exegesis (that’s studying God’s word in context) revealed something to me very different from they way I had heard Ted and many others use this verse. In fact, Paul’s context here was that he was telling the Philippians that he had been through some bad times and some good times, he’d been hungry and full, he had nothing and everything. And through it all, Christ sustained him. It was not about what would happen, but about what had happened. And what would continue to happen.
This started the change in my thinking. I saw that Christ was with me in good times and bad time, in plenty and need, in up and down. And through it all, Christ sustained me. It wasn’t about what I was achieving, but who was sustaining me. Who was with me. In all of my circumstances. A subtle, yet very, very important shift in praying happened…
“Lord Jesus, through whom all things were created, sustain me.“
- Pessimism, part one (beinganormalchristian.com)