4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:4-7
This verse clearly speaks to the person who struggles with anxiousness. I think the reason this verse has always been so powerful for me is because I used to struggle significantly with anxiety, I used to be anxious about everything - so much so that it causes significant physical problems. Years ago, I was treated for chronic headaches and ulcers in my esophagus because of the stress I internalized. Anxiety puts a horrible stress on our bodies when we don’t manage it properly - many people struggle with weight, heart, or digestive issues as a result of stress; or they suffer from stress induced chronic issues like joint and muscle pain, neck or back pain; or they struggle with mental health issues like panic attacks or other anxiety disorders. The list of stress induced illnesses is endless, and I would guess the majority of us have been medically treated for a condition caused by stress, or we are close to someone who has. We live in a world that pushes us toward a life of anxiousness. It’s difficult to avoid. But we were never meant to live with the stress we allow in our lives - we simply weren’t created to physically endure the stress, that’s why our bodies break down when we endure it too long. God tells us over and over not be be anxious or worry in Scripture because He knows the damage it can cause - but He doesn’t just tell us not to worry, he gives us specific instructions for how to live a life without the stress. If you’re struggling with the effects of stress in your life - physically or emotionally - lean in this week and listen to the wisdom that God has for us in this passage. It changed my life and it can change yours.
The verse starts with 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. The first instruction to us when we’re struggling with anxiety is so important that He says it twice in one sentence - rejoice. Since it seems to be super important to extinguishing the stress I n our lives, we need to be sure we have a solid understanding of the word rejoice. Rejoice is an action word related to joy. It means to make joyful or to delight. You have to *do* it - it’s not a passive word. You have to *be* joyful. The dictionary defines joy as an emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something else, but we need to understand that joy is more than just an experience or an emotion. I love Pastor James’ definition of joy: Joy is supernatural delight in the person of God, the purposes of God, and the people of God. True joy, pure joy is supernatural - you can’t come up with it on your own. Joy comes from God, but the delight part is all you. To delight is an action or a choice to *see* the good in everything.
First we are to rejoice in the person of God - who He is. God is all seeing, all knowing, all powerful, but He also loves us deeply with a steadfast pursuing love, He comforts and cares for us in our deepest sorrows - holding us in the palm of His hand and keeping every tear we cry, and He is our protection in the storm. He promises never to leave us or forsake us, He is our Father, our Teacher, our Savior. He created this great big beautiful universe and everything in it, from the stars to the oceans, from the planets to the mountains. And that is just a small sample of who He is. If you are struggling to see who God is, sit down and open His Word and allow who He is to overwhelm you and draw you to a place of rejoicing.
We are to rejoice in the purposes of God - we delight in what He is doing, not because He always lavishes us with everything we want, but because He is always at work for our good and His glory. Though we may struggle to see it in the moment, He is transforming our character and growing us in our likeness of His Son. He is softening us, and growing us in our compassion and our ability to love others with the sacrificial kind of love we were designed for. God can use the brokenness in our lives and in this world as part of His plan to change us. We are to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials because we know that He is at work, transforming and growing the people of God into compassionate people who can see past their own struggles. Rejoice in how He has worked in your life, be intentional about focusing on the blessings He has bestowed on you over the trials you’ve endured.
Finally, we are to rejoice in the people of God. The world would have us focus on all the negativity in this world. You only need to turn on the news or scroll through Facebook to see the evil of many, but God is at work out there and the evidence is overwhelming at times. Personally, I have been blown away by the number of people who have stepped up in this diagnosis to help me and serve my family. God is at work in the people of God, and He is doing some amazing things. Any time you see goodness displayed in humanity, any time you see sacrificial love demonstrated in people, you can know it is God at work. We are not inherently a sacrificial people, we are inherently a self-centered people. You don’t need to teach a toddler how to serve themselves first, they come out knowing how to do that. But God is at work in His people. Be intentional about celebrating the goodness in the people of God. Choose to find and celebrate those stories. Look for the people He has placed in your life as a blessing, and rejoice in those relationships.
The first step in battling the anxiety that would overwhelm us is to rejoice. Go and find the joy that He has placed in your life and celebrate it. Get your eyes off the struggles that cause the stress, and fix them on the reasons He has given you to rejoice.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
Many of you know I have been trying to raise money to replace the uncomfortable caregiver's chairs in the infusion center at Illinois Cancer Specialists. It is important to me that our caregivers are able to sit comfortably for hours while we receive our chemo treatments ~ we need our caregivers to be at their best so they can care for us at our worst. Please consider donating ~ every little bit helps! Here is the link:
https://www.gofundme.com/chair4caregivers. Thank you so much!!
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