THE PEACE THAT OVERTAKES ANXIETY

Updated: Mar 22, 2021



For many of us being homebound, the world we live in has slowed down. It reminds me of the blue laws when I was younger. The blue laws somewhat isolated people by not allowing most to work on Sundays. They were much more peaceful days and I looked forward to them.


Only today, that good sense of slowing down is somewhat tarnished by the health and financial uncertainties that most all of us are experiencing to some degree.


There are those for whom the uncertainties don’t result in a little or moderate anxiety or fear, but an overwhelming amount. Those who have an anxious disposition, other personal stressful circumstances, and have experienced past traumas, especially if unresolved, are far more vulnerable to being controlled by awful feelings and thoughts. If you are not able to get hold of them, consult with your PCP online or another medical doctor or psychiatrist.

I wanted to share a couple of personal stories about how I am coping with all that is and will be happening over the next few weeks.


Do I feel somewhat anxious? Yes! Am I able to trust God? Yes! You might ask, how is it you experience both? Well, I am human (some anxiety, as Jesus in the Garden and Paul who revealed he had “conflicts” and “fears” in 2 co 7:5) and, on the plus side, I have a living spiritual nature, a Holy Spirit within, many good life experiences of faith, and biblical stories that bring me significant comfort. And the more I know about the nature of God, and I study Him a lot, the more peace and contentment overtake me.


I have taken Paul’s experience of dying daily as a road less traveled because I am an adventurer at heart and I like to see the beauty and hard truths around the next bend. The dying to self (sin nature, not personality or esteem) is painful, but it has its perks. Seriously, it does. The one in particular is, as frontline soldiers are told, consider yourself already dead (to this world and all it offers). So, when I am faced with the threat of an emotional loss or death or even physical death, I am not surprised or shocked. Actually I feel ready, as if I have been there before, and I have, often, be it the end of very close relationships, heart attacks, or Vietnam. (May sound morbid, but they now gift me much peace.)


All of you have likely referred to this passage during the Covid-19 pandemic, Philippians 4:6–7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”


The usual, and wrong, interpretation of this is you should feel no anxiety about anything because if you have sufficient faith and are mature enough you should only have peace, despite any life circumstance. That is so wrong on so many levels. Here’s one. God is an emotional God and we are created in His image. We are rightly emotional not stoic, for without deep emotions there can be no empathy. That’s why Jesus didn’t take the first drink offered him on the cross—it was mixed with drugs. He didn’t want to dull His senses (although physically I bet He did—the pain…).


The Greek reveals the truth about this verse. It means we do not let a care or worry go too far. It is implied we will have anxiety and that it is to be expected, therefore, it is not wrong. It’s not about our failure if we experience it, it’s about what we do with it when we do experience it, like anger without cause or lust. We are not to dwell on it or let our minds permit intrusive thinking to have its way in us; that is, to the point our thinking is so washed over with intrusive waters that our minds, like skin, shrivel or are disformed. Permitting the latter is what God commands us not to do.


Instead, fully accept your stray thoughts and feelings and do not fight them. This is about acceptance of reality, not approval. This is far more peaceful than rejecting and fighting to ignore them. Acknowledge them and let them be. Then, completely pour out your heart in a journal, to a couple of trusted friends or family, and also to God. And finally, purposefully entertain competing thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors such as slow, deep breathing (6 breaths per minute), muscle relaxation, listening to music, meditation, putting a puzzle together, sinful card playing like pinochle😉, or have your family tell each other jokes. You get the picture.


Repetitions of the above are always necessary, especially if doing those things is new to you. But they will take hold, give them some time.


May peace overtake you!

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