June 26, 2013 - What do you worry about? What preoccupies your mind and causes you to lose sleep at night?
Do you find yourself thinking, "How am I going to pay the bills this month? What if I lose my job? What if the car breaks down? What if that doctor's exam comes up positive? What if my kids don't turn out? What if my marriage doesn't make it?"
Anxiety can overtake us simply because of our "to do" lists! "I'm so busy! I'm so overwhelmed! I have these goals. I've got to perform. I want to look good. But I can't get it all done! I'm stressed out!"
Maybe we stress out because we care about our country and all the chaos and terrorism. We get upset when the "wrong" candidate wins the election. There is so much ungodliness in our country, and we worry and we are upset and we are stressed out.
It's a fact that we face all kinds of stresses in life, right? It's easy for us to worry about our stuff, our future, our health, our "to do" lists, and all that's going on in the world today.
The fact is, life is hard. We may lose our job. We might get sick. Few of us have all the money we want. We wish we could have stuff that we don't have. And the fact is, we cannot eliminate most of these stresses from our lives. So if we can't eliminate these stresses, how can we cope with them? How can live with less anxiety and more joy?
Here's how: practice. Peace requires practice. That's important! So I'll say it again: Peace requires practice. You can have greater peace! You can have less anxiety! But you've got to practice! I encourage you to practice these four things.
First, fight for joy. The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" It's a command! Just like "do not commit adultery! Do not steal!" Rejoice in the Lord always! It's not a suggestion. It's a command. God commands us to be happy! God wants us to fight for joy in our lives! Joy does not come easy! We have to fight for it!
Second, refuse to be easily offended. Paul goes on to say, "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." (Philippians 4:5) To be gentle is the opposite of being contentious and self-seeking. You put up with other people's faults. You don't get your feelings hurt all the time. You're not looking for a fight. You don't seek revenge. You don't get bitter and gossipy.
Some people are so easily offended that they spend have their life mad and filled with anxiety!
Thirdly, pray! Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God…will guard your hearts."
The way to peace is prayer! Prayer is more than asking God for stuff. Prayer is about casting your anxiety on God and asking for his peace!
Fourth, avoid stinkin' thinkin'. Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers and sisters, 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."
What do you spend time thinking about? What do you fill your mind with? You are what you think! If you keep thinking bitter thoughts, lustful thoughts –if you keep thinking about how you hate somebody –you will become a bitter, self-centered, hateful person. Fill your minds with positive virtues that make life meaningful. Think about things that encourage healing and peace. You can't have bitterness in your brain and peace in your heart!
One more thing that I find helpful. Get a grip on your schedule. Try to balance it with rest, sleep, family time, and recreation. So many of us have killer schedules. Even if you can't change your schedule, take mini-moments throughout the day to exhale and whisper a prayer to God. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7).
The Rev. Greg Henneman is pastor of Clarkston Community Church