“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:8 (NIV)
As I am pacing around in my brain for my next blog post, it occurs to me how much I overthink things in life. Raise a hand if you are with me. (Yes. I see that hand! 5 rows from the back.) Our minds get caught in the gravitational pull of a mental black hole and it can be excruciatingly difficult to get out of it. In those moments my overactive imagination develops an idea. This idea tells me that I have to write something so elaborate and inspirational to spark interest in my blog. However, that’s not when I am at my worst. The most obnoxious occurrence of my own overthinking comes when relationships are involved. My emotions go haywire and I begin to think of every possible negative scenario that could happen. This usually happens when I’ve done some bonehead thing or get filled with angst about the great unknown, commonly known as “the future.”
Sometimes I just want to get out of my head.
I know that I am not alone with the individual who raised their hand in the back of the room. I know this because I watch my friends, coworkers, and people that I counsel do it all the time. Sometimes it is humorous to think about all of the things that my brain developed. Most times, it is just plain sad. Sad because all the scenarios (and there are some real dandies!) that I’ve spent a ton of energy creating in my head never come to fruition. Let me ask you this, how much time would you free up and at what level would your anxiety be if you didn’t overthink things? I know that I’d get more than a few days back in my life and a few more hairs on my head.
I think the biggest relationship that we tend to overthink is the relationship we have with God. If you are unsure if this is true, I bet you can find someone around you today who thinks that something bad happened in their life because God is mad at them. You might be that person. And it’s a shame that our minds take us there. If there was a parent who punished their child the way that some people think God is punishing them, I think that a call to Child Protection Services would be appropriate.
How did God become so cruel?
My guess is we are overthinking it (on top of some bad preaching). Just like we often create horrendous scenarios in our heads, we have the ability to do the same with our conception of God. That notion of God just doesn’t work for me. I am going to hang my hat on something simple and not too overthought. 1 John 4:18 reads, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” This doesn’t sound like the heartless, angry parent that some people call God. It sounds like a God that actually cares about our life and is not looking to punish us. How about you? Do you overthink things? Let’s put our brains and emotions to rest. Your head will likely become a much better place.
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
My son recently achieved one of the greatest accomplishments that we as humans can attain – he learned to tie his shoes. He’d much rather wear his Velcro shoes every day (which, admittedly, is way easier), but shoes don’t always come in Velcro. I think learning to tie your shoes is like a rite of passage, right? Achieving such a marvelous feat, however, did not happen overnight. Whenever I would tell him that we needed to practice tying it was as if I was asking him to paint the house, fold the laundry, and make dinner for his sister all at the same time. He would let out a big sigh, slouch, traipse over, and plop on the chair with the hopes that it would all be over soon. This charade went on and off for about a year. Then there was that one fine day. I think the sun was shining, birds were singing, and all of heaven was watching. I even think that God told me it was going to be the day that he was going to learn to tie his shoes. So I confidently called him over and said, “Son, we are going to learn to tie your shoes today.” He responded with a surprising amount of positivity. We sat down, got a shoe, crossed the laces, took the rabbit around the tree, pulled him through, and, voila, his shoe was tied!
Persistence paid off.
I wish my son would have learned to tie his shoe the first time, but it didn’t work that way. It took effort for somewhere around a year before he finally got it. There were many days that I gave up before he did and days that he’d rather do absolutely anything else other than wrestle with some shoe laces. However, persistence has its way of bringing things along. When we finally arrive at our desired destination, the satisfaction rating is off the charts. You may have had to persist with some things to reach your goals, but what happened when some goals weren’t reached? Maybe you didn’t make the team. Maybe the relationship didn’t work out. Maybe you didn’t become a professional athlete. Maybe they end up dying despite your best efforts and unrelenting prayers to God.
Sometimes, persistence doesn’t work.
There is so much energy and emotion and time sacrificed to achieve your goal. When expectations aren’t met, the letdown can be devastating. Something so important is now lost. Though you can feel lonely dealing with the loss, you know that you aren’t the first to experience it. Yet it hurts because it happened to you. Sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to, but life does not end. You and I are not defined by whether our life goals panned out or not. Our life matters because there is a God who loves us and is relentless in our pursuit of us. He doesn’t quit when things are hard. He doesn’t stop because something didn’t “work out” as we would have it. So let’s persist in one thing: loving God. Let not our circumstances dictate our attitude. This is the one thing that if we persist in, we will always succeed. Then we can truly say the words of Paul, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”