Early on a chilly January morning this year, I went to church, probably excited about a new year and the new beginnings that would take place. I’m sure my brain was dreaming up New Year’s resolutions for myself – all the books I wanted to read, all the time I wanted to spend exercising – the usual. However, my church had their own form of New Year’s resolutions that they invited us to join in, which they called The Ask. The Ask ended up being my New Year’s resolution from God. The Ask transformed my life, my year, and has been the best “New Year’s resolution” that I’ve ever made or rather, accepted.
The Ask is a simple but novel concept. The main idea is “If you could ask God of anything, what would you ask?” and furthermore, “Why aren’t you asking Him of it (oh, you of little faith)?” The basic premise was to pray about what we should ask God for in the 2012 year, then commit to what we are asking for, and then to ask by “prayer and petition” all year until that prayer is answered. Members of the church were handed a card with James 4:2 printed on it (pictured above), which reads “…you do not have, because you do not ask God.” This verse is the core of the The Ask. Why do we continually struggle with issues when we could ask God to change us? Why do we hope for things that we are not even asking God for? Ultimately, the question comes down to “Why is your faith so small?”
Along with our personal “ask,” the church was also asking for 500 new members of the church, many of which they desired to be brand new Christians, experiencing Christ for the first time in their lives. My church asked big because the members’ faith is big. The church encouraged me to ask big of God as well. And that’s just what I did.
I knew right away what God was urging me to ask for in 2012. It didn’t take long for me to fill out the portion of the card that read “What I’m asking God for in 2012.” Quickly, I wrote to be set free from anxiety and worry. Worry seems to have plagued me for most of my life. Before being confronted with The Ask, I had let my worry and anxiety get the best of me most of the time, and it was only getting worse. Days that could have been happy were ruined by anxiety sapping it away. I had been praying for my worry to go away, but that’s not at all how God wanted my worry to go away. The Ask brought me to a struggle that I could no longer let continue in my life. Worry and anxiety was ruining all my chances to experience the freedom that God actually intends for us.
And so, I asked…
Actually asking God for my “ask” was not hard at first. I was inspired, and I continued to pray the same way I had before. At first, it seemed like I was asking God to remove worry, as if it were some thing in my life. Just take it away, Lord! But praying about worry to just magically go away and to instantly have such great faith in God that I don’t ever worry is honestly just a wasted prayer to me now. It requires a lot more prayer and a lot more change than a single “make it happen” prayer like that. I’ve found out that God is actually not a magician as I had once hoped. He does not have a magic wand. God is not Merlin. God is God and He works all things together for our good (even when it doesn’t seem “good” at the time). God is so much bigger than a magician and has so much more in store for me than I ever seem to think.
I had to ask a lot more than to “please be free from anxiety and worry.” I was urged to dive in deeper, a lot deeper. And that’s why I’m writing about this in the first place. I am knee deep (maybe even neck deep) in dealing with my worry/anxiety with God on my side. I am not alone in this fight against my sin (because, yes, worry is a sin as it means I’m doubting God). God has pushed me to face what causes my worry and anxiety, to see what lies I am believing that inhibit my faith and growth, and to be completely and honestly known by Him. And let me tell you – all that is not what I had in mind when I first asked God for freedom. I wasn’t asking Him to bring up all the baggage I didn’t even know was still hanging around. I didn’t ask to deal with difficult thoughts and habits. But this is God’s way of freeing me from worry. It’s the hard way, but it’s the only way that will deliver lasting results.
A Picture of Freedom
As it’s been mentioned in my church circles, God doesn’t set us free from things magically and instantly. God doesn’t leap to action and fix it all every time we pray. But why? He certainly has the power to, so why are we left waiting? I fully believe that it is because “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). I love that verse because it’s a reminder that whatever God is bringing me through now is for my good. He is never, ever out to hurt me.
It’s been hard to keep asking, to keep pursuing God when things get “hard.” I get tired and lose sight of what I’m working toward. It’s hard to keep bringing myself to Him, knowing I must change and that change requires work, and time, and isn’t usually easy. But the work is so rewarding. To be set free from what binds me? Nothing is more valuable than that! A day without worry? That’s a day of pure happiness to me.
Some practical ways that God has been at work in my life, answering my “ask” include:
- obviously, reduced anxiety and worry
- my eyes opened to tons of things I didn’t even know were inhibiting me spiritually and mentally
- understanding triggers for my anxiety and worry and how to avoid or combat those triggers (with scripture or altering my attitude)
- an awesome community to help push me to keep pursuing God
- I was called to read the book Breaking Free by Beth Moore, all about being free from our strongholds, with some girlfriends. It was an amazing experience! I would not be where I am now without the help of this book.
- an amazing, encouraging church community that constantly pushes to get rid of idols
- sitting down and taking the time to truly deal with my sin with God by praying, journaling, and listening to His voice
I’ve learned that God truly wants to and is setting me free from worry and anxiety one baby step at a time. I have had to learn to pray and ask God with a believing heart instead of a doubting one. I’ve learned that this “ask” takes valuable time that will produce valuable results. My faith has grown in ways I never could have predicted, and yet it’s still no where near perfect. I’ve learned that progress does not look like a line graph, always going up and up, but that progress ebbs and flows like an ocean. I’ve ultimately realized that since things are going to go up and down in this ocean of life anyway, I might as well cling to the buoy that is God instead of insist on drowning.
If you could ask God for anything, what would you ask for?