Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7
I’ve become an anxious person. It’s been creeping up slowly over the years as I’ve watched my children grow. I get worried about the kind of world they’re inheriting, if they’re being poisoned by our land, air, and water, and whether or not I’m doing enough to shape them into good people. For the most part, I can keep it under control and I don’t lose sleep over it, because I feel the undeniable presence of God in our lives. But there’s one place I’m having an increasingly harder time keeping it together: the car.
I don’t believe my car anxiety has anything to do with my kids, more a fear of being broken down somewhere without the ability to get home. We live in rural Illinois, so being lost somewhere in the middle of a cornfield without reliable cell service is a legit possibility.
So imagine my sheer terror while driving to an unfamiliar place and nearly running out of gas.
I was supposed to follow my husband with our 3 girls to his new charge on a humid mid-July morning. We wanted to meet the members of this new congregation, as my husband had been appointed there (in addition to his 2 other churches) July 1. So he jumped in his car and I hopped in the van with the kids to follow him. I’d been to the area before, but there was a detour because of bridge work, so I needed to follow him to take the “super secret” way.
I noticed as soon as I turned the ignition that the car needed gas, but I suppose it didn’t register how low the fuel level actually was. And since we were in a crunch for time (Sunday mornings, can I get an amen?) I figured we’d have enough gas to get there.
The low fuel light turned on only a few miles into the journey. Though my stomach dropped, I knew that meant we probably had 25-30 miles of gas, which would be plenty to get us to our destination (and a gas station). But as we drove further and further, the gadget on my dash that tells me how much gas is left until empty didn’t change, so I had no idea how much gas I actually had.
Why is it that a country mile feels so much longer than a highway mile?
As we continued along the unfamiliar route I entered full sweaty-palm mode. There was a lot of sweating everywhere, to be honest. We were literally in the middle of nowhere–fields of corn, roads that barely count for roads, no houses, GPS like “What?”. And if I were to stall, my husband would be late for church. I started taking deep breaths.
I could hear my heart beating in my ears. I forced myself to breathe and blink. My girls were counting on me, and we needed to arrive safely. It was only upon reaching full despair mode that I remembered to pray.
Eventually we made a turn and I started to recognize where we were, about 10 miles from town. I kept it together. As the church came into view the gas light on the dash started to flash and ding. I parked the van in the lot and prayed I’d have enough gas to start it and drive the 3 blocks to the gas station after church, since my husband would immediately be scurrying off to lead the second of three services that morning. I was shaky from adrenaline but relieved. And then my attention snapped to keeping the toddler from running down the aisle toward a basket of snacks on the chancel.
I know that “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalms 6:9). I also know to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). So why is it that I’d forgotten to pray? Maybe because I feel like running out of gas is such a small thing. If there were some kind of prayers-are-answered-in-the-order-they’re-received rule, there are prayers I’d want God to answer way before mine.
So I think I need a new prayer: to help my anxiety. Because much like a country mile feels longer than a mile anywhere else, my anxiety makes small things feel much, much worse than they really are. It skews my perception and bends my heart toward fear instead of gratitude. And there’s enough fear in the world around me right now–I don’t need to be adding to it.
Insight and Inspiration
“The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalms 6:9). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
Consider this: What do you do to calm your fears and anxieties? What prayers help?