“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.”
It’s hard sometimes. To not be anxious. To not be worried or stressed about events in life. General pressures, work situations, mistakes, unexpected occurrences, can all have us anxious. And who hasn’t felt anxious? Who hasn’t been worried, apprehensive, fearful, uneasy, perturbed, disquieted, troubled, agitated, tense, stressed, overwrought…. over something in life?
But here is Paul, telling us not to be anxious ever! He doesn’t ignore the fact that we may have cause to be worried. Instead he offers us a solution, by taking the situation to God, we can trade our anxiety for His peace. Our worry for His rest. God’s peace means tranquillity, calm, freedom from internal strife. You’re still in the storm but God’s peace prevails in your heart and mind. In essence, we can pray and not worry as we give our concerns to the Lord.
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.’ (1 Peter 5:7)
It had been one of “those” parenting days. Being asked to meet with the teacher, finding nits in your son’s hair (eek!) and the added concern of transitioning a child to a new kindergarten. That and a few other curve balls were making me feel quite overwhelmed and stressed. As I reached into the cupboard for a mug for a much needed cup of tea, I automatically sidestepped the “Christmas” one – the bright red one with snowflakes, and the words of Christmas. You know – Peace, Love, Joy. But as I grabbed a teal one with polka dots, I felt the prompting of God.
“Are you really relegating peace, love and joy to Christmas alone? Especially when right in this moment you need peace?”
Peace is not just a nice term pertaining to Christmas alone, or to be used only in relation to world events and the absence of war. Peace is real. Peace is tangible and peace is available to you and me(!) today. Peace is God given and God breathed. Not only did Jesus give us peace, but He is peace personified.
“May the Lord of Peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
Peace is something to be received in our spirits, not our minds. Peace comes from within. You can’t try and think your way into peace. It rises up from the inside. When we allow peace to be in charge it refuses admission to anxiety and worry. There is no frustration or fretting in peace.
With Christ in us, we don’t have to react to the external. We respond to an external with what is on the inside. The enemy wants us to focus on the external and not the internal. He wants to remove Christ from the equation. Jesus was able to speak peace to the storm because that was what was inside of Him. We have access to the same for Jesus is in us. We need to capitalise on God being on the inside of us. He is with us in every situation because He is present within. We can speak peace to the storms around us because it is on the inside of us. We sometimes just have to let it out.
I sat with my cup of tea, regretting I hadn’t chosen the Christmas mug, but nonetheless I let the peace of God surround this anxious mother’s heart. I let peace take charge.
“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15)
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
I had a moment today when I had to decide if I was content with the 2 coffees I had already had that day or whether I “needed” a third. Unsurprisingly, (given moment was had outside coffee shop) I decided for being discontent and proceeded to order the coffee. Was my decision then validated by the fact that the lady then gave me the coffee for free, I am sure….but as I sipped on my coffee I began to contemplate the word “contentment”. (Yes that is what continual injections of caffeine in a day does to a person!)
There is much in life that can stir up discontentment. And as easily as a breeze scatters a pile of leaves, peace is disturbed, chaos created, equilibrium lost. A passing comment by a friend, news of an aspect of someone else’s life can sometimes unintentionally unsettle us. It can prod a restlessness inside us that can turn into discontentment if we aren’t careful.
To be content is to be satisfied, have peace of mind and to be accepting of one’s situation. To be discontented is to be dissatisfied with one’s circumstances. The concept of contentment in life has been around forever and we can find it in the Bible with Paul writing “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11)
Paul gives us the key here to contentment and that is one of “learned”. Contentment is not something that necessarily comes easily – it is a discipline, a way of life that we must learn, that we must cultivate. It is something that we can have regardless of the condition of our lives. As with Paul, he found contentment, whether living in plenty or in want….Contentment is an attitude that shouldn’t be thrown by circumstances. I read once that “contentment is an inner sufficiency that keeps us at peace in spite of outward circumstances.” The other key that Paul gives us, is anchoring our lives in God.
A contented life is a happy life.
“I have kept my feet on the ground; I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its’ mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content.” (Psalm 131:2, MSG Bible)
It would be fair to say that sometimes my mind could be described as a monkey mind – a mind that jumps from thought to thought like a monkey jumps from tree to tree. Random and varied thoughts! It’s like aerobics are taking place in my head. I’m thinking about what is going on at work, what groceries I need, which child has an appointment to attend or needs money for a school trip, what to cook for dinner, when I can have another coffee! I find myself often quoting Scarlett O’Hara and saying “I’ll think about that tomorrow!”
According to researchers we all have approximately 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts a day! And of these many, many thoughts I have a choice as to which ones can set up shop and linger a while. I have a choice as to which thoughts to send packing. Our thoughts need to line up with the Word of God, and what God thinks and says about us. These are the thoughts that we can let linger, that we can ponder on a while. But when thoughts of fear, confusion, torment or doubt start crowding in, we need to set up a road block and not let them take up residence. We can’t prevent negative thoughts from popping into our heads, but we don’t have to invite them in to hang around in our head for an entire day.
It’s critically important that we’re vigilant about observing our thoughts. That we pay attention to what we’re thinking about. The mind is the placenta for the life that we live. As someone once said “every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious.” Joyce Meyer also wrote in her book, The Battlefield of the Mind, “You cannot have a positive life with a negative mind.” Thoughts have an impact on our lives!
So I try to apply the wise advice from St Paul – “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.” (Philippians 4:8)
Permission granted for the positive thoughts, the happy thoughts, the noble thoughts and the lovely thoughts to board!
I’m thinking of…..