The Cure for Anxiety

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Do you feel like you worry all the time? Are you overwhelmed by your busy life and feel like you can never “get it together”? Have you experienced panic attacks or do you lie awake at night because your thoughts won’t let you sleep? Did you know there is an answer in the bible for all of that? Anxiety is the most prevalent condition that plagues our nation and many just ignore the simple remedy laid out in Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

1. Rejoice in the Lord. Seek joy not in activities, relationships, hobbies, jobs, vacations, possessions, money, food or any other such thing…but seek and find ultimate joy in God who is the maker and giver of all joy.  Everything this world can offer will fade away, especially when times get difficult. But the joy found in the Lord is everlasting and can be enjoyed for eternity.

2. Worship the Lord. Though we are specifically called in these verses to pray, I think if we look at the example given to us by Jesus himself we will see that “the Lord’s Prayer” begins with praise to God… “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”.  We are instructed to praise our creator before we even think about asking for anything.

3. Present your requests. After you have lifted up praise to your Father, then you can “petition” before Him.  When your anxiety has gotten the best of you, turn your worry list into a prayer list and cry out to God.

4. Thank God for His provisions. Though your worries may at time seems greater than your blessings…simply possessing the saving faith that gives you access to the Father gives you more than enough reason to be thankful.  I have read these verses often, but seemed to always overlook the part about thanksgiving. But it is amazing how much relief we find from anxiety when we are less focused on what we don’t have and are truly thankful for the things we have been given.

5. Think on good things. The final verses in this section tell us that we shouldn’t just stop worrying, but we should replace those worries with better thoughts.  Thinking on the truth of the word of God, the promises of God and the pure and lovely character of God draws us out of the state of despair and chaos and places us in the strong arms of our Savior.  When you find yourself worried about a particular situation, make a list of all you know to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable from the Bible.

When you do these things, the Bible says that God will give you peace…a peace that doesn’t even seem possible in the midst of your circumstances, a peace that is promised to you.

 

Tomorrow is Just Another Day

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Tomorrow I have an ultrasound of my pelvis….hopefully the final item on the long list of tests I have had in the last few months.  CT scans of my sinuses led to allergy tests which led to a surgery that somehow made things worse.  After months of a permanent sinus infection and reoccurring upper respiratory infections I sought new directions.  I read articles and books.  I eliminated dairy.  I used a Neti pot.  I tried air purifiers and medications.  Finally I resorted to a gluten-free diet and when I actually felt better I thought I might have some sort of allergy or intolerance. So my doctor sent me to see a gastroenterologist who tested me for gluten intolerance and celiac disease.  And when those results were negative he ordered a CT scan of my abdomen.

Life always takes a direction you are not expecting…for some reason I always think that if I can come up with every possible outcome when I am faced with a situation, then nothing on that list could possibly ever happen.  If I think of it, according to my skewed, arbitrary statistics, it is not going to occur. So if I spend every second of the day coming up with horrible scenarios and taking every “what-if” to the worst possible extreme then I have covered all my basis and in my mind I am certainly safe from any harm.

Some how when I formulated my ideas, I completely neglected to concentrate on anything but my digestive system and so my theory was proven true when the doctors actually found nothing wrong with my stomach and intestines and found a host of things wrong in my pelvic area.  Why did I not think of that? Had I just been a little more thorough…..but seriously, this theory is absurd.  Not just logically but biblically as well.

Since last Wednesday I have dreaded tomorrow and the days that follow.  I don’t want any more information.  I am pleased with my ignorance at this point.  Life will be fine if I can just go on with my sinus infections and forget all of this ever happened. And I have spent the last few days making my list.  I haven’t slept well, I haven’t cared for my family well, I haven’t been a good friend or a good neighbor or a good  anything….and all those moments are gone now, wasted on a parasitical powerful force of uncertainty.  But today, God finally brought to my attention that it truly does not matter how much worrying I do, how many scenarios I come up with or how much time I spend dreading the outcome…my life is still His to control and he has my ultimate good in mind.

Since that moment I have spent today repenting of my lack of trust and seeking desperately to live out 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, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  And God has assured me that when it comes to my responsibility, tomorrow is just another day.  My job is still the same…Glorify God in all I do and say and think and God has got the rest.

How can churches find a way to work together?

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My husband and I have been significantly involved in a vast amount of churches over the course of our relationship…probably enough to allow for one church each year of our almost 8 year marriage.  We have encountered relational, physical, financial, emotional and generally just really crazy problems as we have ministered to the people in those churches.  But above all, the problem that seems to plague me the most is the unwillingness of churches to work together.  No matter where we have been serving in all of the tri-state area, we have seen a similar pattern.  Churches become isolated because they build up their own way of doing things and become bitter and angry at any church that is doing something different.  Thus even if one church has a great idea for serving others or furthering the gospel no other church will join them because of minor differences.

Are we not one body? Are we not the family of God? Are we not, as a whole, the bride of Christ?  If we are truly Christians, as a unit, we are all of these things and yet we gather into our segregated groups on Sundays and we bash anyone who is doing things differently…refusing to see their side of the issue.  In general we are simply refusing to love.

If love would be our first choice before our own agenda we would not call other people names, even behind closed doors.  If love were our ultimate goal we would not look down upon people because they don’t play the music that we like or wear the clothes that we prefer.  If love were the driving force of all of our actions, we would not question everyone’s motives or assume they are “out to get us”.   If love was all that fueled our ministry we could gather together as “The Church” and be able to accept each other despite all the differences among us and we would not worry about who was getting the credit for what because we would all be giving glory to God.  I truly think that if our thoughts are forever consumed with, “How can I love more?”, we could forego all of these minor problems and truly bring the gospel…that as Christians, we should all be able to agree upon….to our community and drive out the evil that is lurking at every corner.

So, to answer the question “How can churches find a way to work together?”….my answer, of course, would be “Love!”.

Hope in A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Five years from its original publication, A Thousand Splendid Suns has sold millions of copies all around the world. In 2007 it was one of the most popular books, and yet it took me until now to read this gripping and soul stirring novel that covers the history of Afghanistan over the last 30 years.  The unstable history spans from the invasion of the Soviets, through the reign of the Taliban, through the violent uprisings and tragedy as the country moved into the post-Taliban rebuilding.  On a personal and political level, life has been hard for the people of Afghanistan but even amongst the wreckage and war, the characters of this story grasped on to, and were ultimately disappointed by the intense hope that they felt was all they had left after so much was taken away.

Mariam was the cast-off illegitimate child of a rich business owner. She lived for Thursdays when her dad would come and visit her. Though she was well aware of her position as the invisible 11th child in his family she still had a passionate hope in one day being a part of his family.  When her mother took her own life, she was left with few options and found herself being married off to a gruff, violent, much older man.  She lived out her days oppressed, abused, and lonely until she found an unlikely friend in her husband’s newest wife, Laila.  Through a unique bond because of a shared hatred for their husband, this pair with the addition of Laila’s two children, became the unexpected family that Mariam was looking for.  Powered by the hope for Laila’s future, Mariam eventually kills Rasheed and takes the fall for her herioc deed so that Laila can escape and live the life the Mariam had always dreamed about.  Mariam’s life, to its tragic end, was fueled by a hope that was never fully realized.

Laila was the only daughter born to a middle-class family shaken by the loss of two sons in the war.  Her constant hope was to live up to the legacy her immortalized older brothers left behind, so that her mother, immobilized by grief, would love her the same as she had loved the two boys.  Life exploded in front of Laila’s eyes when a stray bomb ripped through her home, stealing away her father and her mother. She soon found it her only option to marry Rasheed as she discovered that her true love, Tariq, had been killed.  Her life is nearly taken, as well, by the violent hands of her husband until Mariam gave up her own life by killing Rasheed and standing firm in her guilt so that Laila could escape.  Though she discovers that the story of Tariq’s death was all a treacherous ruse, is reunited with her first love, and returns to her home town…she quickly learns that life is not all she had hoped for.

As I read this captivating tale, through the rise and fall of each character’s wavering hope, I could not help but think of the unending hope that we, as children of God, have in this life and in the next.  We have hope that cannot be taken away by injustice or tragedy. We have hope that will not be destroyed even by death. The hope in the lives of Mariam and Laila was always seen from behind a veil of powerful loss and unrelenting oppression.  This hope was never realized and always sought after.  These women found their hope in circumstances so as life changed their hope would crumble away from one event or person only to cling to another unpredictable object or ambition. Family, love, financial security and freedom all gave these women reason to keep going but in the end each and every hope was shattered by war, violence, loss, and personal choices. Our hope stands firm and will not fall away as long as it is holding fast to the immovable, unshakable, unchanging, unwavering God.  May I never build my hope on the unpredictable circumstances of life, but may I always find my true and lasting hope in my God.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

What Ever the Question Is, The Answer is Love

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I was given some great advice this week.  And as it goes, of course, I was faced with many frustrating and oppositional opportunities to use this advice.  My life long struggle has been the fear of man…I worry about what people think of me. I am anxious when I have to talk in groups. I am crippled by the thoughts of talking to someone I don’t know. And the answer I have always been given for this struggle is to develop more confidence.  I have been told to love myself more and to think about all my good qualities.  I have been advised to think of other people in embarrassing situations or to think of what I have to say as the most important thing in the room.  But all suggestions seem to have the same focus…ME.  And as I began to really think about it, I was faced with the truth that my social awkwardness and anxiety had nothing to do with my lack of confidence and it had everything to do with the fact that I was obsessed with myself.  I worry about my own reputation and how I am viewed by others.  I make myself such a central focus of my thoughts that I can’t possibly see anyone else and I become preoccupied with preserving myself.  As I presented this delimna to a thoughtful and helpful sister in Christ, she plainly said to me “You are too focused on yourself and this is what is producing your fear.  But the Bible says in 1 John 4:18 that love can drive out the fear that you have. If you will start showing love to people and focusing on what you can do to serve them instead of worrying about what they think of you then God will begin to change your heart…”

And as I lived through a frustrating day today with no naps for anyone….feeling tired and sore from an outpatient procedure I had done yesterday…I was faced with another one of my struggles….impatience.  When kids were tugging at my clothes and my head was pounding…when both children were screaming and all I wanted to do was lay down…I was faced head-on with overcoming impatience.  And in the most frustrating part of the day I found a way to ask myself, “How can I show my kids love right now?” Deciding that sitting in the floor and playing with them was the most loving act I could summon, I soon found my frustration melting away so that I was actually laughing.  I forgot what I had been so frustrated about when my focus was turned from myself and onto how I could love and serve someone else.

So…my thought for the day would be: What ever the question is, the answer is love!

My Favorite Blog Post of the Week

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http://solofemininity.blogs.com/posts/2012/02/leap-year-and-the-gift-of-time.html

I definitely needed this!  My thoughts are constantly consumed by making the most of my time.  I become easily irritated by interruptions and I get overwhelmed when my to-do list has boxes unchecked.  If we don’t focus on the true reason for our time on earth our lives are subject to feeling like a constant interruption and we may never feel fulfilled by any of our accomplishments.  This blog post was a great reminder that every second of our day is given to us by God for His use.