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. Phillipians 4:6-7
At the start of this year, I was sitting at my desk back in Dallas, staring at my phone. Something had come up, and in my mind I knew it wasn’t a big deal, or something that should overwhelm me, but it did. I couldn’t breathe. Not even in a figure of speech way; I was sitting at my desk, chanting breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth; in through your nose, out through your mouth in my head. It didn’t work. I had to physically leave the room, run to the restroom and put cold water on my face. I’d had residents and friends that dealt with anxiety, and had had my share fair of stress myself, but never understood anxiety and panic as I did in that moment. And the first thing I thought after that wave finally passed was Other people deal with this every day. People with panic attacks, agoraphobia, and other anxiety disorders do this every day…they’re so much stronger than me. I must be so dramatic.
And, slight aside, people that deal with things like that every day are much, much stronger than I. Things that I do without thinking — getting on a subway, speaking in a room of my peers and superiors, reaching out to my friends when I need support — are things that other people have to push themselves to do. And I don’t take that lightly. If that’s a struggle you deal with, I want to encourage you to check out this post, by a blogger I really admire and respect. Yes it was written at Christmastime, but I promise it still applies. Hannah’s blog is one I find peace in reading, and she speaks truth so well.
I was talking with a friend of mine, just last night, about the pressure we so often feel to not stress.
We look at everyone around us, at the battles they’re fighting, and our worries feels ungrounded. When in comparison to theirs, our burdens seem light, and it seems like we’re being dramatic. When others are dealing with loss, and heartache, our anxiety and doubts feel like smaller demons, making us smaller warriors for fighting them. In these low moments, we know we’re supposed to pray and take our burdens to God, but more often than not, we wonder if we shouldn’t just be handling it ourselves? Other people have actual problems, after all, and maybe we’re just being self-centered. Things like finding rest or craving peace, we believe the lie that if we were better Christians, we’d have them.
Back in Dallas, I ended up writing this verse (Philippians 4:6-7) out and sticking it between my desktops. Whenever I looked at my phone, and felt the panic rising again, I just read and reread the verse, claiming the scripture, shouting it internally, shutting out any other voices by sheer volume. It ‘worked’, but not until I’d repeated it so many times that I memorized it, and realized what I was actually saying.
The verse doesn’t say that peace comes when we’ve dutifully given our worry to God, and have relieved ourselves of any stress. Peace isn’t the reward we get for being a good Christian, or for handling fear ourselves, or for letting God deal with [other people’s] actual problems, instead of our own. Peace is something that happens when we let God in.
Friends, it is so so easy to say It’s not that big a deal, sorry I overreacted, Lord. Other people go through much worse, I know you have bigger things to deal with, it’s okay if you go to them; I’m fine. And that’s a lie that’s easy to believe, that other people are more deserving of God’s peace than us. People who fight harder, or pray harder, or anything more than us, they’re the ones that are worthy of the peace of God. He’ll guard their hearts and minds, nestle them in His arms, hold them tightly and grant them rest. But me? Why would He give peace to someone like me?
God doesn’t work like that, because grace doesn’t work like that. It’s not that God gives to the worthy, it’s that He gives, period. Friends, please understand that God doesn’t wait for us to be pretty to give us peace. He’s not going to say ‘get your act together, look me in the eye, and ask me properly’. Paul promises in Philippians that peace is there when we turn to our heavenly Father. It’s not after the moment has passed that God will tell us ‘well done’, and give peace. It’s when we let our requests be made known to God.
Thanksgiving is the word that often trips me up, because it makes me think that I ought to have a radiant smile on my face when I come before the Lord, listing off blessings and thanking Him for all He’s done. I don’t know about you, but when I need peace, I don’t feel like I’m inright-upright-upright-dowright happy all the time (clap, clap). And there I go, right back to the place of believing God doesn’t have peace for someone like me.
This particular ‘thanksgiving’ is eucharista, found only 15 times in the Bible, all in the New Testament (Strong’s concordance is such a gift, you guys). It means gratitude, being aware of and thankful for, the gifts being given. Guys. When we come to God with our burdens and weights, we are to come expectant. We are to come aware, ready, already thanking Him for the peace He will give. It’s not that we’re supposed to run around flinging daisies and jumping for joy, it’s that we can come before the throne of God with gratitude, with relief, with thanksgiving, for the peace we know He will give us.
And He will give you peace.
Not once you push away our fears and stress, but when you can’t see anything that doesn’t scare you. Not when you kneel properly and fold your hands, but when you’re shaking. Not when you utter the perfect prayer, but when you’re unable to form words. Just ask Him, come to Him with gratitude, and share your heart. When you are overwhelmed, He will hold you. When you are alone, He will be by your side. When you are crushed, He will give you peace.