Anxiety stirs. Ever since news of a sexual assault at gunpoint in a neighbor’s backyard last week, something in me just won’t settle. Or is it news that one more of my favorite companies openly declared its support of same-sex marriage? The world shrinks. The back yard is no longer safe. There’s one more business I won’t support, one more option off the table. Perhaps it’s the heartbreak I can’t shake for my daughter who doesn’t understand why her friend isn’t playing with her anymore. Or the unresolved issue with another child who isn’t hearing. Then of course there are the piles of paper mocking me from the top of my desk, stalking me with the worry of unfinished business. Uneasiness plagues me. Hormones mix it up worse. Peace escapes me. All I can manage before running out the door at 8 a.m. to begin a day full of meetings and errands is twenty minutes to dump the craziness in my head and the heaviness of my heart on to the lines of the page where my eyes witness the cry of my heart to my God who just has to hear me. A knot forms in my throat several times. I swallow it. No time for tears.
I drop my daughter off at class and head to my first appointment. “Lord, please, you just have to give me a scripture to stand on today, a verse to which I can train my thoughts when these same concerns cycle through my head again and again.” The one about being anxious over nothing comes to mind. I search anxious in the Bible app on my phone. Found it! Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” A glimpse of relief peeks back at me. I wonder what the previous verses say. I read them. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (verse four). Rejoice??? Really??? And it’s exclamatory, not just a casual suggestion. “How do I rejoice, Lord, when all I want to do is cry? I don’t feellike rejoicing, but it’s right here in Your word, before you tell me to be anxious over nothing.” As if it’s a prerequisite to peace. I’m desperate. I obey. Not because I feel like it, but because I want the peace so badly. I want to do this His way. Thankful that onlookers would likely assume I was engaged in a passionate cell phone conversation via Bluetooth, I declared firmly and loudly: “I rejoice in You, Lord, that You are creator and ruler of this universe! I rejoice in You, Lord, that none of my struggles are a surprise to You! Lord, I rejoice in You that You are not caught off guard by any of this! I rejoice in You that You know all things and are all powerful. I rejoice in You that You will give me the information I need when I need it. I rejoice in You that You will accomplish Your purpose and Your plan in all things. I rejoice in You, Lord, that where I am lacking, You will complete the work You started in me and my children.” I look up rejoice in the Greek. It means to be exceedingly glad in the Lord. I focus my attention on my God – on those things about Him for which I am exceedingly glad – and my concerns begin to ease. In light of the bigness of my God, my worries become a bit smaller.
I keep reading. “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand” (verse five). That’s odd. Sort of stuck there. There has to be a reason. What is it Lord? Maybe the Greek holds clues that will unlock its significance. It’s talking about my behavior. Maybe even my disposition. Any and all people who see me in my private life, my church life, my business life, at Bible study, with my friends, in public. What do they see? What is made known to them? What knowledge do they gain about me or perceive? Gentleness? Is my behavior suitable? Equitable and fair? Mild? What about when I’m stressed and anxious, like I have been this week? Am I the same person in all places and in all circumstances? There really isn’t a private life, is there? The verse says so. “The Lord is at hand.” Both physically and in time. My Messiah and Lord Jesus Christ is positioned right near me. He is right here. Always. Sunday, when I snap at my husband in front of church. He is near. He and anyone looking saw. Gentleness is not what was known. Oh to be able to hide my face! It also implies I have near access to God. In those stressful moments when I’m not myself, He is right there. And He is soon to come. When He does, how will He find me? Even if I’m stressed? The key is in the rejoicing. If I am exceedingly glad, there is no room to be exceedingly anxious, and I can be exceedingly gentle. Lord, I will practice rejoicing!
Reading on, I come back to “Be anxious for nothing.“ I repeat it. Again and again. Just to be sure I get it. It means do not be troubled with cares over anything. Do not seek or promote my own interest in anything. That sheds some light. Is that the source of my anxiety? Seeking my own interest in all these things? It hits me. Truth. Do not be troubled, Shauna, or seek your own interest for your daughter and her friendships. Do not be troubled or seek your own interest for the piles on your desk. Do not be troubled, Shauna, or seek your own interest with regards to danger that lurks around you. Do not be troubled or seek your own interest with regards to shopping your values and if it will one day mean not shopping at all. Even for food. (Yes, my mind does go that far to the extreme very fast!) Be anxious not over your hormones. Be anxious not. Period. And the next word is but. Really, it’s saying rather or instead. “But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (verse six). So instead of troubling myself and seeking my own interest, practice thanksgiving. Address God with my needs and wants – seeking and asking – AFTER giving thanks! Give thanks first. Rejoice and give thanks. Then I will be anxious over nothing. I can’t be thankful and full of fear at the same time. I can’t be exceedingly glad and uneasy at the same time. We have to do something instead of worrying. Instead of fretting. Rejoice and give thanks!
The result? Peace! It’s the very thing that drove me to God for a verse on which to train my mind. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (verse seven). That’s exactly what I need!!! I need your peace. My heart and mind need guarding. Lord, I will do this. I will rejoice. I will give thanks. Starting now. Thank You, Lord, for Your word. For this very specific word. Thank You that it is alive and active, right now, for me. I need it so desperately. Thank You for being at work in and through me, even when it’s uncomfortable. Thank You that You will work all of this together for good. Thank You for the opportunity to learn more about You, Your truth, Your ways. Thank You.
And His peace does as He says as I move from appointments to errands. Anxious thoughts threaten. They are met by the word of God. They are met with rejoicing. With thanksgiving. And the peace goes deeper. On my way home, I think about the last words of the verses God gave me. Yes, I feel like they were just at the very moment I needed them. The last three words register: Through Christ Jesus. It all happens throughChrist Jesus. It is only possible because He makes it possible. It is only possible for me because He saved me and I am in Him. Through Him, I rejoice. Through Him, I give thanks. Through Him, I make my requests known to God. Through Him, I can experience peace that passes understanding. Through Him, that peace will guard my heart. My burdened heart. Through Him, that peace will guard my mind. Everything is through Him. Salvation. Hope. Healing. Help.
Pulling into my neighborhood, finally done with all my running around, I vent to my sister. I need prayer. She listens. She affirms. I share the scripture the Lord gave me. She emphasizes thanksgiving. Regarding my heartbreak for my daughter and her friend dilemma, she encourages me, “You can thank Him for what you can learn from this and what Elly can learn. For the ways you can train her in the ways of the Lord through this.” Thank you, Lord. “And you can thank Him for using it to turn her heart toward her family.” Thank you, Lord. “And you can thank Him for using this as a way for her big sisters to be a good friend to her.” Thank you, Lord. Thank you for my sister. Thank you for the truth she speaks in love.
This morning, she emails me a prayer. One that pierces my burdened heart with hope. One that pierces my concerns with what matters most to God.
My prayer is that this will be a time for you all to be filled with God’s grace and peace. I pray that you can be the gospel to your family and friends. That you will love them selflessly. Thank you Lord for these times that you refine us and remind us that you are the ONLY one we can rely on. Please cause their hearts to turn to you and trust you in everything.
When the devil stirs it up and steals your peace, resist! Rejoice! Give thanks! Repeat as necessary. Stir things up in the Lord. Be anxious for nothing. And may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus as you become wholly His today.