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Perfect Love

I don’t always prefer The Message when choosing a version of the Bible to read. However, I recently re-read my favorite verses in this version and it gave me an even better perspective.

Philippians 4:6-7 says “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Often times, I get severe migraines. Not a ‘sensitivity to light’ headache. Not the kind cured by closed eyes and an ibuprofen. My migraine is a monster.

While I cannot pinpoint every migraine’s cause, I am confident that some of them are brought on by stress and worry. Worry physically exhausts me sometimes, and I’m sure I’m not alone. In the days leading up to our wedding, I got migraines quite frequently. On my first day of work, I had one. After a difficult meeting in Eau Claire, I got one. Patrick left me in the car to run a quick errand in Sam’s Club. Because I don’t have my own card and they don’t allow you in the store without one (honestly – what’s the deal?), I was wandering the small flowerbed out front looking for a discrete place to vomit in my nice dress because I’m classy like that.

If reading these words from Paul to the people of Philippi were enough, I’d cut my migraines in half. Unfortunately, while this passage is my very favorite, I have a hard time believing the power in acting it out.

It’s a really nice thought to say “Well, I’ll just pray and not think about it again.” But I can’t do that, if I’m being honest. You’ve got this, God. But I’ve got it too. I will pray and I will continue to carry the worry, and potentially a migraine as well. I worry about absolutely everything. I always have. At a very young age, I remember having a sleepover with my two best friends. We watched Anne of Green Gables just like good little sheltered children should. When one of the characters lost his arm in battle, I sprinted to Andrea’s room and knelt at her bed to pray that my brother and dad would never be drafted to war. I had a lot to learn, clearly. I’m still teased over this because I was absolutely HYSTERICAL that night. My point is that this is nothing new. When we leave town, I worry if we locked the door. In the middle of a conversation, I worry I’m being misunderstood or rude. I worry about my family simply because they’re so far away. I worry that when I do get these migraines that it’s really my brain filling with tumors.

This verse does not promise sunny days and rainbows. Paul does not say “Your fears are irrational. Just pray and you’ll realize you’re worried about nothing.” And maybe that’s why this verse never helps me. Praying this prayer only offers relief in worry. But Paul does explain the peace and wholeness God will provide when we surrender our fears. Unfortunately, without willing hearts and true surrender, this is not good enough for us. We want fixed problems and our wish lists checked off. I subconsciously fear that surrendering my fears, worries, and doubts will give God the okay to shatter my world. Again. Irrational. And not at all how I know our Sovereign God deeply loves and cares for us.

A few months ago, I was sitting in a satellite location for Willow Creek’s Summit. I had just received news that a dear friend could potentially have a malignant tumor. The worship team began to lead us in singing Bethel Music’s “It is Well.” And I just sat there, nearly numb. Nope. I cannot sing this. I can sing this song when things are great! I will belt this out in my best tone-deaf voice when I know my loved ones are healthy because it is well then. I began to sob. Not just a tear here. Tear there. I was ugly crying… in the second row of a two thousand-seat sanctuary…. next to all of Patrick’s coworkers and their spouses.

…I believed that chiming in, praising God, and surrendering control and worry was surrendering hope and care for a person I loved so deeply. Then of course they led us in Bethel Music’s other song “No Longer Slaves.” And I kept sobbing.

“My fears are drowned in perfect love.”

My thoughts began to change as I listened to these words and made them my own. I no longer felt a desire to hold tightly to my phone waiting for results. While I prayed for a good test result, I also prayed for peace. I had a really lengthy, honest, blunt conversation with God about how much I cared for this particular person in my life. I told him this wasn’t fair. I sincerely thanked Him for His provision. And I ended (more reluctantly, but at least heartfelt) with a surrender of worry. Surrendering my anxiety and my fears to Jesus gave me freedom. I was free from this particular bondage. I didn’t have to keep repeating my worry. He heard me. I knew He did. I could continue to pray, but I didn’t have to dwell on it every moment of my life. I was free. It helped immensely that the test came back negative. And I still deal with worry on a daily basis. But having a powerful, authentic breakthrough like the one at Summit allowed me the opportunity to live freely, to recognize God’s sovereignty and love, and to experience the authentic power of surrendering to Someone greater than myself.

Submit your fears to Jesus and His goodness will settle your spirit. Let it be so.

Ashley Cooper

I strive to find joy in each ordinary day.

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