Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.
Philippians 4:6 NLT
Correct. Absolutely. Don’t worry.
Instead, pray. Tell God. Right on. He’s the best!
And be thankful. Yes, of course. What’s wrong with me? I have so much for which to be grateful.
We hear it. We say it. We even mostly believe and agree with these words, at least intellectually.
But have you tried to live it when you feel anxious about something?
I clean. You probably have your own coping activity. But when the tornado of uncertainty roars and whirls through my insides, I grab a trash bag.
What about you? What do you instinctively run to or grab hold of when you just can’t settle?
The tornado inside of me becomes an outwardly productive cleaning machine. “Watch out” should be the alarm sounded to piles of old mail, receipts held for later, and magazines we might want to browse through in the future. Everyone at our house knows to hide it or clutch it when she’s coming around the corner with trash bag in hand.
Cleaning is a good thing. Necessary in fact. But, it’s also an indicator to those who know me really well that something inside is a jumbled mess.
The solution God has given us, through His servant Paul, sounds so easy in a couple of paragraphs.
“Rejoice in the Lord!”
Let everyone see how gently you respond.
Jesus is near.
And Jesus even offers to take all our junk and give us peace in exchange. He offers us Himself as the simple and complete Healer of all that is wrong with us. It’s really that basic according to the One who designed us.
But what about the times when it feels like everything roaring inside might actually jump through your skin? That feels like a good time to hide because if I run into anyone they may not encounter gentleness. If I open my mouth they’re probably not going to hear peace.
The truth… In the thick of the storm, it is so hard to live out peace. To turn to Him in the tornado. To not be afraid. To not turn to all the old coping skills and activities.
The why is so individual that we each need Jesus to reveal, sort and shred our junk. I just know that finding peace, being gentle and rejoicing is not as easy as it sounds through a letter. Or a post.
Paul, way back when he wrote this letter of encouragement, was literally in chains. He was a prisoner awaiting execution. He didn’t get to choose his circumstances. But he did get to choose his response.
Surely, he knew anxiety and fear. He was full of faith, for sure. He trusted God, no doubt. He held fast to hope because of all he had seen, heard and experienced of God’s faithfulness, absolutely!
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
Philippians 4:12 NLT
But he was a man. A human in total flesh and blood. Not a super hero. A mere mortal. And he struggled against his flesh.
Did he have coping mechanisms? Sure. He sang. He wrote. He reminded Himself, as well as others, of Jesus and His sacrifice. He preached the gospel to Himself. His own words reveal his learned method of processing the storm.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9 NLT
So, as I read Paul’s letter of encouragement, I am reminded that it is normal to feel anxious – sometimes. Coping skills can be good. We all need healthy ways of processing the deep emotions that come naturally while living in a broken, hurting and uncertain world.
Ultimately, though, I have a choice. Surrender is my choice. Control over my circumstances is not a choice. My response is my choice.
I have a choice. You have a choice. Jesus had a choice and He chose us.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 NIV
Perhaps, when the winds begin to pick up and the dark clouds loom, and my hands grab for a trash bag, I can choose to rejoice that Jesus is cleaning the clutter with me. I can choose to recognize that Jesus is near. Together, Jesus and me, we can name the piles of emotions, and together we can throw them into the trash bag.
Perhaps, our particular coping activities can become reminders that we have a choice to be free in Jesus. His peace is our peace when we decide that we will look at Him.
It’s not as simple as it sounds in these few paragraphs. However, somehow long ago I learned methods of coping with all the stuff of life that hurts. And today I am reminded by Paul, and by Jesus as I turn my face toward His, that I am able still to learn and grow and become.
Rejoice! God is near. I say again, rejoice for His peace overwhelms the darkest valley.
I choose to rejoice. I choose to surrender. I get to choose.
Eyes on Jesus… We’ll shine!