When my husband, Dennis, and I were newly married, we sometimes visited a little church in our small town. I remember one sermon in particular when the pastor was preaching on Philippians 4:6-7: "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."
The pastor told us to imagine writing all our concerns and worries on a piece of paper and putting it in a basket. "That's what you're doing when you pray—letting go of your worries and letting God deal with them," he said. Faith is in not pulling your paper back out of the basket after you've given it to God.
I think of this analogy often, and it has given me tremendous strength and internal peace during many difficult times. Whether dealing with family health issues or loss, work stresses or big life decisions, I focus on releasing my concerns to God knowing He will always guide, protect, comfort and strengthen me. He will never fail or abandon me.
I also reflect on this verse every year when our stewardship packet arrives. Being self-employed, I'm always just a little worried about the "what-if-I-don't-make-as-much-this-year factor" when we calculate our annual giving plan. Yet I know that once I give that worry to God, it's no longer mine. God will provide even more than we need, just as He provides for the birds in the air and the lilies in the ground (Matthew 6:26-34). Making my annual pledge is simply putting my paper in God's basket and knowing God will handle the rest.