Pray, Wait, Trust
A couple of years ago, I was at the Dollar Store buying Christmas tins and gift bags, along with everyone else in town, and the line stretched far down aisle three where home decor and auto air fresheners mingled with sewing kits and ankle socks. While slowly making my way up to the register, a refrigerator magnet saying, “Pray, Wait, Trust” caught my eye and I picked it up and added it to my basket.
It just so happened I was wrestling with some issues that felt big, heavy, grey- very smothering and oppressive. My worry-colored glasses were making everything look threatening and gloomy. I’d gotten stuck in a rut of anxious reasoning and thinking.
That little magnet… well it spoke to me. More specifically, it was the Wait and Trust part that stopped me in my tracks. See, I had been praying but not actually releasing to God’s providence any of the people or situations keeping me up at night. So much of our stress as human beings comes from trying to control what feels out of our control. If we’re not intentional about surrendering to God, daily, all our nagging questions, fears and passions, they will pile up and block our view of what is lovely and hopeful, not to mention distract us from the good we are each called to contribute to this world in our own unique ways using our own distinct talents.
Believe it or not, that simple message of praying, then waiting and trusting, inspired a morning routine that helped me develop a habit of turning Godward at the first sign of inner turmoil, rather than allowing any old destructive train of thought to plow into my mind, park, and take over. I’m by no means completely free of anxiousness and stress, but do now have some really effective tools for accessing an eternal perspective that helps me transcend my stress and worries and better protect my mind from negative thoughts and ruminations.
Here are three of my go-to methods for maintaining inner calm and productivity in the midst of uncertainty:
Every morning, I wake up with a head full of noise. It’s like my brain fills up overnight with new frightening scenarios, insecurities, and frustrations. In those early hours of a brand new day, I turn to journaling for help with emptying my mind and entering into a state of surrender. Without filtering myself, I just write and write and write, all the good, the bad and the ugly. I bring my most vulnerable, broken and authentic self to Jesus. It’s cathartic to see all of the chaos in my head released like water from a faucet. Once down on paper, I imagine myself handing that chaos to God and leaving it there in His hands. In the aftermath, I feel quieted and emptied. I can let go, be still, and just cling to God for strength, discernment and rest.
The hardest time to be grateful is in the midst of suffering and confusion. What I want are answers and relief and the more I fight against what is, the more miserable and helpless I feel. Intentional gratitude is a tool for getting unstuck from a continuous loop of resentfulness and despondency. When I turn from fixating on what feels dark to focusing in on what is light, a pattern of divine faithfulness and mercy begins to emerge, reminding me of all the ways God has blessed me, carried me, and revealed Himself to me through the kindness of others, through beauty, and through my own growth born of struggle.
The truth is, my trials are what have stretched and humbled me. If I had it my way, I’d be comfortable all the time so my instinct is to resist hardship, yet this is often the rugged and narrow path I am meant to walk and need to walk for my salvation. I find that seeking out and giving thanks for blessings in the midst of my hardships helps a great deal with the “waiting.” I can have patience in affliction if I know God is with me, and intentional gratitude reveals His presence and His love.
Whenever I’m reading or praying I find one line that jumps out at me. Whether it be from a psalm or poetry, a novel or blog post, a prayer from my prayer book or a refrigerator magnet from the dollar store, little powerful mantras seem to pop up exactly when I need them. Pray, Wait, Trust, for example, is what I repeat over and over when I’m tempted to catastrophize or overfunction. This line from an Orthodox Morning prayer, Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others, is one I turn to often as a parent when I’m faced with difficult decisions or new and unforeseen challenges. “Bring my soul out of prison that I may give thanks to Thy name” from Psalm 142, is a mantra I cling to like a life preserver when I feel I might drown in doubt and anguish. Praying it repeatedly brings me comfort and just enough endurance to do the next right thing while I wait on God to transform in me what needs transforming. I write these mantras in my planner, on my whiteboard, or print them out and tack them up next to my desk.
The more healing habits I intentionally cultivate, the less susceptible I am to becoming paralyzed by overwhelm, stress or despair. So every morning I have to choose all over again to remain present and attentive, to do the inner work, and to fill my mind with prayer and hopeful content. We can’t always choose our circumstances but we can choose how we react and prepare for them.
Pray, Wait, Trust… keep putting one foot in front of the other… be patient with the process… keep believing in goodness and grace.
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