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
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. How do we get on top of those anxious feelings? First, we rejoice in the Lord always, and then we let our reasonableness be known to everyone. Hmm. Would the people in your life describe you as reasonable? EVERY person in your life? That would be a great big nope for me. I wish I could respond yes to this question, but the reality is I can’t. Not everyone would say I was reasonable. I hope the people in my life would say I am increasingly more reasonable - I am striving to be more reasonable in my encounters with others, but I still have so far to go.
To be able to truthfully answer that question, we need to fully understand the word reasonable. By dictionary definition, reasonable means to be agreeable to sound judgment or logic. Someone is typically unreasonable when their emotions are escalated or they are demanding. An unreasonable person has high expectations, is easily offended, and doesn’t compromise well. Their way is the right way, and they seem unable to see things from another perspective. We all have people in our lives like this, so when these kind of descriptions start, we tend to think of those other people. Stop. If you're thinking this message applies to someone else in your life, just stop. Think about yourself - we could all use some instruction on how to be more reasonable on occasion. Think about the times in your life where you have thought or said “I deserve”, “I have the right”, “It’s not fair”, “Listen to me”, or “I will not.” A reasonable mind is a peaceful mind, one who is content and willing to listen to others. A reasonable mind compromises and puts other needs or preferences first when making decisions. They yield to better information in a discussion and values other people's input. Someone who is reasonable listens more than talks, considers other points of view, and remains calm in all circumstances.
When you look to other translations of Scripture, you see reasonableness can be translated as gentleness as well. Gentleness amps up reasonableness, doesn’t it? Asking that question again - would everyone in your life describe you as gentle? Ouch. The opposite of a gentle spirit would be combative, harsh, critical, blunt. We all know people from experience and from observation who are the opposite of gentle - there is the person that stirs the pot and there is the person that stills the storm. A reasonable or gentle person is after peace in relationships, they still the storm. And it's not the false sense of peace from avoiding conflict, it's the gentle kind of peace that comes from resolving conflict biblically. A gentle attitude is considerate, unassuming, not pushy or demanding, it is not unnecessarily rigorous.
Paul says we should be known for our reasonableness or our gentleness - to everyone in our lives. That includes our children, our parents, our sisters, our co-workers, the cashier at the drug store, the person who just cut us off in traffic, our Facebook audience, and the Comcast employee on the telephone. Everyone. But how does being reasonable or gentle impact our anxiety? Why did Paul put these in the same passage? Consider how much unrest and conflict flows from stubbornly, unreasonably insisting on your own way. When we have been offended, think about how much of our brain power and energy is devoted to those thoughts. We fume over the wrong in our lives and we retell the story to anyone who will listen. We punish the offender with harsh words or the silent treatment. Consider how much peace of mind we could have if we chose to yield our ways to others, if we lowered our expectations, if we demanding our way, if we chose to listen instead of speak.
So much of our anxiety comes from our unwillingness to be reasonable or gentle. We get stuck on things that HAVE to be “this” way to be good, and up goes our blood pressure when other people insist on having their way. What if you just let your expectations go and trusted that God is in charge?
Far too often, my anxiety about a certain situation, driven by my fear that things may end badly, impacts my behavior and stirs up an unreasonable response. Then my anxiety spirals because I’ve created conflict where there shouldn’t be and tension in a relationship - all which could have been avoided if I just chose a gentle response. I’ve been working on my gentleness for years - one of the ways I’m intentionally trying to do that is by listening more than talking. I repeat James 1:19 in my head multiple times a day: Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. I find I am far less reasonable or gentle when I respond quickly to a situation. When I take the time to breathe and think before I respond, my response is considerably more reasonable. We all get those texts that inflame us, or we read a Facebook post that launches us into a tirade. Resist the urge to respond in the moment - put the phone down for 30 minutes and wait to respond. Of course that's more challenging in the moment, but I'm working on it. Since I am such a solution-oriented problem solver, when I am confronted with a problem, I tend to immediately start dictating a response. Instead of speaking in these moments, I’m trying to listen more. I’ve found on any occasions the simple act of listening avoids conflict altogether.
It’s a work in process for me as I’ve discovered our reasonableness and our gentleness are determined in the everyday, moment-by-moment decisions in our lives. Its not the big moments or crisis when our reasonableness is tested - ever notice most people are generally work together when a crisis hits? It’s in the little moment that we battle our urge to be unreasonable. You need a plan for these moments or you will fail ~ put the phone down before responding, choose to listen for the first 5 or 10 minutes without saying a single word, read His Word every day, confess your sin and allow Him to move in your heart.
As I said, I still have so far to go in this area of my life, but I am so thankful that our God continues to work on this with me. The beauty in a difficult diagnosis is that I have been given the gift of time - time to reflect on the things I’ve said or done, time to think about why I say those things and how to change that, time to meet with God and time for the Spirit to work in me. There are still people in my life who would tell you that I am not always reasonable, and less often gentle, but it is my hope and prayer that they can see the Spirit working to change that every single day.
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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