This past week, I was worried about my health. (It ultimately turned out to be nothing. But for a couple of days, I was sort of freaking out.)
On Tuesday morning, at the advice of my insurance’s 24-hour nurse hotline, I paid a visit to my neighborhood Urgent Care clinic. By the time I was done, that visit would completely calm all my fears.
But driving in the car on the way there, I was terrified. It’s been a busy, stressful week. I’ve been working too much, staying up too late, and not getting nearly enough sleep. And as my anxiety welled up in that car drive to the clinic, I started to pray.
To pray that everything would be okay. That God would calm my anxiety. Quiet my fears. That I wouldn’t be sick. But as I drove and prayed, I was struck by a thought.
Stop freaking out over this.
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.
What if I stopped praying that God would keep me healthy, calm my fears and anxiety (and protect me from the terrible health scare I had concocted in my head)? I was being overcome with worry, for something I had relatively little basis to be worried about.
What if I stopped worrying so much about me, and started focusing on other people instead?
So I opened up my list of friends and family I pray for…and started lifting them up before God. Not rattling off their names and a short request then rushing to get back to my fears, but really taking time to lift up their names and their individual situations.
To me, one of the most obnoxious things about U.S. Christian pop culture is it’s incessant need to make faith all about us. How Jesus is speaking to me. What God is doing in my life. How God is blessing, teaching and encouraging me. My personal relationship with Jesus.
And while there’s nothing wrong with these things–the issue is that they’re only a PART of what God intends for our Christian life to be.
To focus only on us: our worries, our fears, and how Jesus is at work in our life, that is overlooking a very big part of God’s design us.
God designed us to be in community. To live, love and encourage others. To pray for them, to offer help where we can, and to learn more about who God is and God’s heart for the world through being in community, serving each other and growing together in our faith.
Praying for other people helped take my focus off of me. In my stress and lack of sleep, all I could think about was me: my stress, my worries, my life.
Breaking away from that–actively seeking to bring other people before God: to lift up their problems, their worries, their fears–it forced me out of my spiral of anxiety and self-pity.
It didn’t get rid of my anxiety, but it reminded me of a different path. A new direction my thoughts could go.
The Bible is full of verse that speak against fear. Do not be afraid. Do not be anxious about anything. Cast all your cares on him. The peace of God…will guard your hearts and minds.
But in today’s incredibly self-centered culture, maybe one of the keys to finding that peace is taking the crazy and counter-cultural risk to step outside of ourselves and start focusing a bit more on other people.
Because, at the end of the day, not everything is about us.
The more we get our minds off of us, the better we will be able to focus on God. To see the world through God’s eyes, not ours. But in order to do that, we have to be intentional about how we think. About how we pray. And which filters we choose to use when we look at the world around us.