Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Anxiety may be one of the biggest issues of our time. It robs us of so many things. What is anxiety? The Oxford Dictionary defines anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” Psychiatry defines anxiety as “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.” Anxiety is common to humanity; it lives on a spectrum and we know it when we feel it. But what is it, really? Here’s my take: anxiety is the felt experience of being unaware of the presence of God.
Today’s text tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Translation: be aware of the presence of God in all things all the time.
On a sheet of paper, make two columns. Label the left column: “Things That Are Bringing Me Joy.” Label the right column: “Things That Are Causing Me Anxiety.” Take a few minutes to reflect and list out everything you can think of in those two columns. You have likely not done this in a while. You may have never done it at all. It is so important to get these things out of the shadows of our lives and into the light. Start with the left column and read them aloud.
Now one at a time, say, “Father, I thank you for , and I rejoice in you. Again, I take joy in you.” Rejoicing in the Lord has a way of magnifying our blessings and joy. Now read the list on the right column aloud one at a time as a prayer to God. “Father, I give you , and I ask you to .”
Now come back to the second verse of today’s Advent text, hidden in plain sight between verses 4 and 6: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” It’s right there between rejoicing always and not being anxious. In the wake of this work, note the gentleness with which the Spirit is calming your being. We are empty of anxiety and full of joy. This is the life God intends for us to live all the time.
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. This all seems so clear and yet so far from me a lot of the time. Train my spirit to rejoice in the Lord, no matter what. I confess my training is to rejoice in good circumstances and happy times more than I have learned to rejoice in the Lord. It means I get depressed in the face of difficult circumstances. Teach me this way of rejoicing that burns off anxiety like a morning fog. Come, Holy Spirit, infuse me with the gentleness that comes from your nearness. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
Anxiety is the felt experience of being unaware of the presence of God. How do you relate to this statement from today’s reflection?
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