Its well past midnight and you can’t sleep… You toss and turn, worry after worry flooding your head. Most of the ideas aren’t related, you can’t do anything about them, and most of them won’t be remembered tomorrow, but tonight they torture you with concern. Of a sudden, you’re fresh out of worries, but now you’re recycling old worries; it’s hot, you throw off the sheets, anxiety is spilling over the cup of your heart like the swimming pool in a level-eight quake! Frustrated, you glance at the clock realizing the alarm will ring soon. Worry steals your slumber…
We’ve all endured an evening of “worry.” However, something I’ve come to notice is that two times of year tend to be the worst “worry” seasons. The first (and most documented) happens around Christmas, when millions of Americans rush the streets looking for joy in all the wrong places only to lie in bed and wonder why their life doesn’t match the Miracle on 34th St. Yes the holiday season can be flooded with anxiety.
But another “worry” season that gains far less notoriety is summer time. Yes, summer is the season of what I’ve come to call the “Summer System Shakeup” because in the summer many of our established habits and routines are put on hold for a time, leaving us to the adventure of our own mind, carnal proclivities, and moral fallout.
For years, I had subconsciously realized summer as a wacky time for people in our church – Suddenly marriages that seemed healthy around Valentine’s Day became deeply challenged by June, or single women who otherwise were confident in their “waiting” started chirping to and fro looking for a man, and even people who had normally invested their money wisely made sporadic and extravagant vacationing decisions. By and large, people were moving homes, moving states, moving jobs, tempted to move marriages, and long-held moral foundations. Yet, it wasn’t until I sat with a man and heard about his wife’s diagnosable “bi-polar” episodes each summer (while the kids were home from school) that the “Summer System Shakeup” solidified for me. All in all, it became clear that when people were setting aside their cultural routines, they were also grossly tempted to set aside their familial and moral routines as well. In essence, people vacationing from life began to vacation from God.
We should not be surprised by the fact that setting aside plans and routines leads slowly to concern, panic, and even gross sin. “Idle hands is the devils playground” is a famous maxim. Thomas Jefferson added, “Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.” And Ben Franklin, “It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.”
But ultimately it was Christ who provided us with the antidote for worry stemming from improper planning when He taught, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.” It’s the last half of the verse where we tend to memorize, “don’t worry about tomorrow,” but notice the precursor therefore meaning that something must take place first, which allows we not worry. The natural question must then be, “What is that ‘something’ which takes place first?” And, the clear answer is, “Seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness…”
Christ’s solution to avoiding worry is to stay busy addressing the concerns of His kingdom. In short, be diligent at your work of ministry regardless of what “season” it is. Just because you vacation from work doesn’t mean you vacation from Christ – Just because you’re at the beach doesn’t mean you stop guarding your eyes. Just because the kids are off school doesn’t mean you stop serving at church. Just because you’re in a hotel doesn’t mean you stop family devotions or worship. Just because you skip a paycheck doesn’t mean you skip a tithe. Just because everyone else is at a concert looking for men doesn’t mean you miss college group. On and on it goes, cultural vacation is not spiritual vacation!
My personal experience is that the more lax my environment, the more fervent I need be in spiritual quest, protecting my heart from it’s own wicked proclivities to abandon God in search of personal gratification. Thus, instead of tuning out and turning off my spiritual disciplines in the summer, it’s a time to charge them forward, devoting massive amounts of time to prayer, planning, and the work of ministry. In short, while the world jumps into the pool each summer, Christians should jump into church!
If you’re feeling the “Summer System Shakeup” look for ways to engage in ministry at church, and don’t make impulsive choices you’ll regret, knowing that routines are back online in September.