Well readers, I’m interrupting our look at WallsofJericho to talk about what’s on everyone’s mind tonight, the election. I know some of you are Obama supporters. You know I’m not. This election leaves me very concerned about the future and my dear readers, you do not have to guess how I react to such situations. I fret to no end!
And tonight, I intend to tell you all about dealing with anxiety.
Physician, heal thyself.
There is hardly any better time to talk about it though than from experience. I’ve had anxiety today. I got a bottled water as soon as I could at work today because I thought I needed a drink. I have had panic attacks in the past before and I’m thankful that thus far, I have managed to fight them off and not have one.
Pray for me dear readers. I mean that, and I also know I’m not alone.
Yet as the fear built up inside of me, I remembered that the Dean of our Seminary preached a great sermon a few weeks ago on anxiety and he used Philippians 4. I thought of that passage immediately and began trying to say it as best I could from memory. Let’s take a look though at the relevant portion to us:
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Let’s look at that.
Rejoice. Rejoice? Rejoice? Wait a second Paul. My life is in pieces right now. Things are going terrible. I’m supposed to rejoice? Yep. You’re supposed to rejoice.
What is there to rejoice about?
Well, God’s on his throne and he still rules. Jesus Christ is still the savior of the world. You’re still breathing and you have life. The Holy Spirit has come into your life and you are being conformed into the likeness of Christ. You have the love of God for you and you have the promise of eternity with him someday.
Amazing how easy it is to lose sight of those. As I write them, I feel better, but it seems the temporal world seems to come in and make us ignore eternal realities.
Yet I try to keep this in mind, when something happens that gets you to trust God more, even if the thing is not good in itself, it has been used for good for you.
And when do we do this? Always? Maybe it’d be easier for us to do it in anxious times if we did it in good times. It’s easy to remember God when things are hard. It’s easy to forget him when things are good. We need to be thinking on the same grounds in good times and bad. We are people who are not good at praise.
Our gentleness is to be known to all. This goes along with our rejoicing. If we are rejoicing, we should be people of joy. Keep in mind in thinking about difficulties also that it’s likely that Paul wrote this from a prison cell and the prison cells in the ancient world were far worse than they are in modern-day America.
Verse 6 also gives us some difficulties.
“Be anxious for nothing.”
Beg your pardon?
Look what’s going on and you’re telling me to not be anxious?!
He doesn’t just leave us hanging though. He tells us to pray. Let our requests be made known to God. If we are anxious about something, we definitely have a need. Paul says “Instead of worrying, take it to God and trust him.” He also tells us to have thanksgiving. Thanksgiving needs to be a part of our prayers regularly. When I pray, one thing I always give thanks for especially is my friends. They mean much to me.
Again, would we probably be more thankful in hard times if we were in good times? If you’re like me and seeing anxiety now, could it be because of a lack of rejoicing and thankfulness in good times? Yes. I am speaking to myself as well.
In doing this, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds. This peace is the recognition that God is on the throne and he is allowing all to happen for good. To not think so is to doubt him. From my reading of the commentaries, it seems the idea of transcending all understanding is pretty much undescribale. It’s like all the words are inadequate.
I’d also add that this is deep with a Trinitarian concept of God. Imagine the fellowship of the three persons of the Trinity. How much peace do you think exists amongst them? As much as is possible. That is the peace that is promised. The Trinity isn’t worried about what’s going on. If they’re not, why should you be?
Finally, we have a list of attributes of things to think on and to think means to not just have an idea but to deeply reflect and take into account. Really ponder these things. Don’t just have a momentary idea of them. Ponder them. Weigh over them in your hearts. Why do you want to think about what makes you anxious? Instead, think about what fits these qualities.
Paul is so sure of this that he points to himself as an example. Paul, in a jail cell, is telling people how to experience joy. Would that we could be the same!
Tonight, and for the next four years if you’re like me, try to keep these in mind. I feel much better writing them out, but I do ask your prayers as my memory will be terrible and those of us who teach can have the hardest time following our own principles.
May the God of peace be with you as well.