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Get Ready for the Joy

I’m going to show my age by admitting this, but I remember my excitement when our family purchased our first set of Encyclopedias when I was still in elementary school. They lined our bookshelves and having them meant I would have access to information regarding almost anything I wanted to know more about. I used those books frequently to assist with schoolwork or just to satisfy curiosity at times. I remember being particularly interested in Koala bears (because I had an older cousin who was as well). I distinctly recall looking up information about them for a “report” in the 5th grade. It’s funny what one remembers from childhood.

When I got to college, I spent countless hours in the library doing research to assist with papers, projects and my thesis. It took a good deal of time and effort to access information in those days. Databases and microfiche, tons of paper copies of articles, and tens of thousands of index cards got me through the college years. Fast forward 30 years and the majority of us walk around with a device the size of a playing card in our pockets or purses that can give us access to information on any subject at any time we want it (although, spoiler alert, sometimes the information isn’t exactly accurate). One would be hard pressed to disagree that we have more knowledge than ever before and we can fill our minds with information quickly. This convenience can offer great benefit, but it also provides access to many things that fill our minds with less than noble thoughts.

I’ve noticed in my own life, as well as in the lives of so many around me, the struggle with anxious thoughts has increased at an alarming rate. Anxiety is impacting children as young as five or six years old, which just should not be. I can’t help but wonder if the source of much of the increased anxiety we are all feeling could possibly be the exposure to information, much of which is negative and depressing, at any time we choose to access it. Is it possible that by filling our minds with the problems and opinions of people, many whom we don’t even know, we are creating worry that might not otherwise exist? Whether it be the world news, local news, or simply social media feeds, it doesn’t take long to find a story that promotes fear, worry, anger, heartache, jealousy or a host of other negative emotions in us. We are inundated with sadness and bad news at every turn.

In Philippians 4 (Message translation) we read:

6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

I’ve quoted those verses so many times in my life and have attempted to put them in to practice over and over again only to continue to struggle with returning to worry at the slightest inconvenience or uncomfortable bump in the road of life. It wasn’t until just this morning as I read the chapter as a whole that I realized the importance of including the verses that precede and follow verses 6 and 7.

Beginning with verse 4:

4-5 “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Then verses 8-9:

8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

I glean from these verses that to dispel worry, we need to do ALL these things:

1) Celebrate God ALL day EVERY single day. In other translations this reads, “always be full of joy”. It’s difficult to celebrate and worry at the same time….and celebrating sounds like much more fun.

2) Make it clear to EVERYONE we are on their side. In other translations, “be considerate in all you do” or “Let your gentleness be evident to all.”

3) Anticipate the return of Christ or “remember the Lord is coming soon.” No matter how bad things get NOTHING can separate us from God.

4) Pray about everything WITH Thanksgiving. We can ask God for anything and trust that He will answer with “yes”, “no, it’s not good for you”, “I have something better”, or “not quite yet”. Go ahead and thank Him in advance.

5) Fill our minds with things that are TRUE, NOBLE, REPUTABLE, AUTHENTIC, COMPELLING and GRACIOUS. Think about things that are worthy of praise. (I want to ask Him to stir the Spirit within me when I am filling my mind with things that will lead to more worry.)

As I read through that list of what sounds so basic and simple when written in bullet form, I’m reminded that so often I am guilty of an alarming lack of faith. I go through the motions of praying, but am I really anticipating that God will answer my prayers or that He even hears them? Am I really anticipating the return of Christ? Am I really always full of joy? Am I always considerate? Do I think on true and noble things?

Recently I attended a service at Crosspoint Church in Nashville and was introduced to a song that rocked my heart and has become my anthem in recent days. I am so grateful that the song was released to the public only a few days after I heard it. I immediately downloaded and often have it on repeat. I want to share it with you in hopes it will encourage you as greatly as it has me.

The next time you feel anxiety welling up inside of you, I hope that you’ll take a minute to walk through the steps found in Philippians. Celebrate God, be considerate of others, anticipate His return, pray with thanksgiving and fill your mind with things worthy of praise. You’re not alone. I’m working through these things in my own life and I do share in the struggle, trust me. However, with each day I get stronger and I’m learning to claim Exodus 14:13, “Do not be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.”

I also encourage you to promote joy. Share the happy things. Find moments of perfection in each day. I’m not suggesting that we sugar coat the reality of life’s difficulties, but I do choose to believe there is way more good in the world than bad. It just doesn’t make the news. As believers, we should be the light and the hope. It’s our job to share the Good News.

Finally, never forget, “If He conquered the grave there is nothing too great, watch what He will do.” We ARE going to get victory over worry….you better get ready for the joy.

*I also want to add that there is absolutely NO shame or condemnation in seeking a counselor or medical assistance for depression or anxiety any more than in seeking medical treatment for strep throat or the flu. Get help if you need it....without hesitation.


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