Sunday, August 21, 2011

Focusing on what I know

Several weeks ago we took Zoodle to the emergency room. Throughout the day, he'd been having occasional, sharp abdominal pain. We were naturally concerned, and a nurse on the phone confirmed that we needed to get him checked out.

The diagnosis? Constipation.

I groaned and laughed when I realized we'd taken him to the ER for constipation. But it was a nervous laugh, because I knew the hospital bill wouldn't be pretty. (And I knew that based on our particular health insurance plan and deductible, we would be responsible for the bill.)

Last night before bed (bad timing!), I logged on to our health insurance website to see how much we'd owe.

And...I freaked out. It was a lot higher than I expected. We've also had major car repair and maintenance bills recently. Carefully-saved cash savings can be spent so quickly, and that tends to undermine my sense of security.

It wasn't a pretty sight, last night. Tears, panicked worries about other anticipated expenses months in the future. Guilt that we haven't been as careful with discretionary expenses as we should be. I was a mess.

I sat down in a private place (which happened to be on top of the closed toilet in my bathroom!) and started to think and pray. As I mentioned recently, my faith in God has really been renewed lately. I knew I needed to look at this from a perspective that put God in the center of the situation instead of continuing to fight for air, drowning in the quicksand of "what ifs."

Lately there is a principle I've been telling myself, and it's really helped me to have less anxiety. Focus on what you do know, not on what you don't know.

I don't know what will happen when I call to discuss some hospital charges that don't make sense to me, or what other expenses will come up in the future, or exactly how much money we can save by making wiser choices, or exactly how much income will come into our household in the next six months. These are the things I worried about last night, even though they are things I don't--and can't--know.

What I do know is this:
  • God has provided for me every single day of my life, and He will continue.
  • According to Proverbs 3:5-6, if I trust in God instead of my own understanding, and if I submit to Him, He'll make my path straight. That means He'll show me the next step. And the next. And the next. What a relief!
  • I know all the comforting promises and truths of Matthew 6:25-34. When I seek God first, He will provide for me! Worry is pointless!
  • Jesus said that I should ask God for my daily bread. Sure, I can make wise plans about tomorrow, and next month, and retirement, but as long as I have my daily bread, I have what I need. I have my daily bread already, and much more.
  • Maybe at times we should have been more careful with how we've spent our money. But even if we've made mistakes, they are "as far [from us] as the east is from the west." God doesn't require me to be perfect in order for Him to provide for me.
As I sat there, my perspective shifted. The Holy Spirit in me did his job as my Comforter and Teacher. I was still emotional, but I became excited to see how God will provide for our family.

Honestly, I'm still having to fight against the desire to worry and to "figure it all out." But when that happens, I can choose to shift my focus. It can be tough, changing old thought patterns. But I know that this current situation will help me to more deeply learn a skill that brings so much peace:

Focus on what you do know, not on what you don't know.


Norm Deplume said...

I'm a worrier, too. We've had emergency room trips before as well. This week we got a $900 estimate on repairing DH's truck. I absolutely understand the freakout.

But I agree that we have to focus on knowing that we'll figure it all out when the time comes. We'll make ends meet. And so will you.

Lara said...


Since being assigned a court date for A, I've been consumed by "What ifs." What if the judge doesn't like us? What if this person or that person doesn't show up? What if I get stuck in Africa for a really long time? What if we spent all our savings and our friends' generous donations and the whole thing falls through?

It was really eating at what should be a joyful time. This morning when I sat down to pray, I thought, "What is true here?"

1. God works all things together for the good of those who love him. [Romans 8:28]

2. He sets the lonely in families.[Psalm 68:6]

3. He will never leave or forsake us. [Hebrews 13:5]

So even if our road does end up being long and hard, I have these basic truths to return to. They do not change, no matter how circumstances might.

Jessica said...

Sorry to hear about Zoodles ER visit. Happy that it was something as benign as constipation. Don't worry, after my years working for a pediatrician I know you're not the only one this has happened to & I'm sure you won't be the last. I also have the problem of worrying about things that are out of my control (my husband calls me Stressica). Everything you brought up is spot-on. Thanks for the words of wisdom. I needed the reminder. :)

Call Me Cate said...

I've been working hard at letting go of the things I can't control and the things I just don't know yet. It's not always easy but it doesn't pay to spend too much time what-iffing. I hope you can have the bill reduced - I've had friends that were able to do that just by calling and asking, especially about specific items that didn't make sense. Mostly, I'm glad Zoodle's okay and it wasn't something more serious. That's what matters most.

Emma said...

this is such a lovely post. it has truly inspired me. :)

Tiffany said...

This is great, Beth! Thanks for the encouragement!

Ashli Moore said...

You couldn't have said this better. God will and does provide...thank you for this message today!

SurvivorBlessing said...

I am very proud of you!!! Money is 'just' money, but to have God is priceless!

Sandra said...

If I become overly concerned about "what if's" I remind myself that every cent we have is a gift from God and He will give us what we need. And the older I get the easier it is to see how He has always provided.