Saturday, June 2, 2012

Calm My Anxious Heart

First, blog news: I am so excited to see how this is coming together! We have Tuesday Topics ready for the next six weeks and scheduled to post automatically. The writing team is filling up nicely. There's at least a general schedule for a post from a different woman each week while I'm gone. We still might need lots of patience from you as we figure this out, but it's coming together. If you send in an offer to help now, I will be very grateful, but I probably won't get back to you about it for a month or so; please accept my apologies in advance! Later, at the end of July or in August, we'll discuss and organize more. After that, I think we'll pick up the pace with posting, maybe start some interesting series, new features, and whatever else God leads us to.

And then, on a slightly more personal note, when Ashley wrote her goodbye, she said that she she felt God leading her out of a time of sharing, into more listening and learning. Amazingly, I believe God is leading me similarly, but in the opposite direction, if that makes sense. I am naturally one who would be happy just to quietly listen and learn for my whole life, and now God is telling me that I should try to write more often. I sense that He wants me to move out of my quiet comfort zone and share some of my thoughts. Also, because I'm in a pretty isolated situation, He's been leading me to internet ministry for right now. To explain that last bit some more: I'm not truly physically isolated--although we do live "out in the middle of nowhere"--but I just haven't built up or found much of a real-life mom community here. I do see other people, of course, but I find that it's hard to settle in for real relationship and conversation when I'm so busy with my little ones and the people around me are not. So, I really do ask for your prayers over me and the ministry of this blog. Thank you!


And now, the meat of this post....
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Philippians 4:11-13 
Most of us have probably struggled with worry and discontent. I honestly don't think of myself as a big worrier, but there have certainly been times when worry was my besetting sin. When we first moved to Moscow, I really should have been enjoying life. I was newly married and finally living in the country I had always dreamed of. And yet, discontent and worry seemed like a black cloud over everything. It was at that time that my mother-in-law gave me a book God used to change my life, Calm My Anxious Heart, by Linda Dillow. I devoured it, read it all down in one gulp, then started over more slowly. I did the Bible study in the back of it on my own, and later with a group (in Russian! It is available in Russian!) I really dwelt on the Bible truths presented in this book for a season, until I felt that I could say with Paul, "I have be content. I can do all things through Christ!"

Then, fast forward to now. Of course, over the years, I have had times of worry and times of peace. But now, this trip we have coming up was just driving me to distraction. I was not resting in the Lord. Finally, just last week, I got my old favorite book back out, dusted it off, and started in on the first chapter. I'd like to share it here with you. I wish I could just type the whole first chapter out, but that's not reasonable or allowed by copyright laws. (You should go look at Amazon, though. There's a pretty good sample.)

Here are some of the things that stood out to me this time around, things that I'm learning or relearning right now:
  • About a week ago I bumped into an acquaintance who is miserable about everything. Her attitude that day reminded me of the "Meredith" that Linda Dillow starts off with. Hearing the Meredith in my life was a good reminder of what my own attitude should be and what I want others to hear when I speak.
  • Linda Dillow quotes from the old diary of a missionary to Africa: "Never allow yourself to complain about anything--not even the weather...." Not related to the trip that was bothering me, but I have a big problem with this. I don't like the summer heat here, and I complain about it. (Shame, shame on me, when I think of someone in African heat!)
  • This quote:
    When I told a friend about my fears, she observed, "Linda, you like control, and there are too many 'uncontrollables' in your life." At the time, I didn't understand what she meant. After all, I trusted God. I was a missionary--I was paid to trust God. What did she mean, "You like control"?

    Looking back, I realize that I did desire to trust God, but sometimes He was very slow. When He was moving at what I thought was a snail's pace, I unconsciously decided that He needed my help....  It's our "helping God out" that leads to an anxious heart. When we take over and try to control what happens, we take our focus off the One who is in control and put our eyes on our circumstances. 
  • This is something I had never heard before the first time I read this book: 1 Timothy 6:15 in a certain version of the Bible reads, "God... is the blessed controller of all things." Wow. God is the controller. (Of course.) But, had I really accepted that? And, not only is He the controller, He is good, the blessed controller. This verse is also incredible in NASB.
  • She also tells a story of two monks who planted trees. The first one planted his and asked God for rain. God sent rain. Then he asked for sun, which God also gave. Next he asked for a little cold to strengthen the tree. God sent that, too, but the tree froze and died. The second monk planted a tree, and his grew beautifully. He said, "I entrust my tree to its God. He who made it knows better what needs than a man like me. I laid no condition. I fixed not ways or means. 'Lord, send what it needs,' I prayed, 'storm or sunshine, wind, rain or frost. Thou has made it and Thou dost know.'" The author talks about being a "first-monk woman" or a "second-monk woman." Oh, how I want to be a second-monk woman! Especially when it comes to this trip that I had been worrying about so much.
  • It wasn't until after I laid my worries about this trip down that I found out that one of the big things I had been worrying about was now taken care of. That was like a special gift from Him. I told the Lord that yes, I had been worried, but that I was going to turn now from that sin, with His help. And then He took care of the problem I had been worrying about.

Have you read Calm My Anxious Heart? What had God used in your life to teach you contentment?


  1. I have heard about this book a bunch of times and just went onto Amazon and got it for my Kindle! I can't wait to read it!

    Contentment is something that I've been thinking about off and on recently and been discussing with some friends. I feel like living overseas and having to learn to flex with all of the challenges and inconveniences has helped a lot with contentment, by God's grace. I feel like I struggled a lot more with discontent when I had more and felt like I could expect things going certain ways most of the time. Living in a situation where there are quite a number more "uncontrolables" in my daily life, though through plenty of resistance, God has been teaching me that so many of the things that I had previously felt entitled to are really extra grace and blessing far beyond what I really need. It has been so freeing to go through this process of letting go of those "entitlements" (like convenience, customer service, fairness, comfort...) and to try to learn to receive those things as blessings when they come, rather than things to expect, and then to try lean on Christ in circumstances that seem unfair or uncomfortable. He really does make up the difference and truly does offer us ways to be content in all circumstances (though too often I don't take Him up on His offers!).

  2. I could write a book about my anxieties and how Linda Dillow through "Calm my anxious heart" helped me! I'm still anxious and still want control, though! We're in this "what's next" phase - not sure about visas, about temporary residence, about anything beyond that! It's a very real lesson of laying down control and letting God take care of it - whether it means staying or leaving.

    I'm starting to have peace about it...and then my mom will ask about it. She doesn't understand that we can't know these things, that we don't have control over anything. We really can't plan beyond today. I think that I'm able to have more of a ministry to her in her unregenerate and unrepentant state, with me as someone who recognizes Who is in control and trusting in Him. I definitely can share my anxious heart with her, as long as I'm revealing the truth to her, instead of being despondent over what might happen beyond the horizon.

    Thanks for sharing your heart, Phyllis! :) Will be praying for your upcoming trip!

  3. One more thing about the book "Calm Your Anxious Heart"...back in 2004 or 2005 I borrowed the book from a friend, who had it on her book shelf in her office at the institute. I had the book for about a year. During that time, our institute caught fire, completely destroying my husband's office and my friend's office next door. Later on she was happy to find out that I had the book, and it was not lost in the fire. Since then I bought my own copy for my Kindle. :)

  4. I was given this book at a WOTH conference in Kenya some years ago. I didn't read it right away, but then when we were trying to decide about moving from Kenya to Tanzania the Lord led me to read that book. It was such a huge help to me. I highly recommend this book and need to break it out and read it again soon!

  5. I read this book a few years ago, but I think it's time to read it again!