April 29 – Another Day in Social Isolation – and I Still Need Peace

Philippians 4: 8 – 9 (NLT)

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me— everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Notice the ending to these verses – “Then the God of peace will be with you”. These verses actually belong with the ones we looked at yesterday. So, I’m going to have you read those verses again, just to refresh your memory. I also want you to notice how much the idea that peace originates with God is a basic foundation.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus”. (verses 6 and 7)

In 4 verses, God’s peace is written 3 times – “you will experience God’s peace”; “His peace will guard your hearts and minds”; “the God of peace will be with you”. For those of us who struggle with worry and anxiety, these words bring a promise – an absolutely wonderful promise. And these 4 verses also bring us concrete ways to deal with worry. Start to pray about everything, no matter how trivial, so that we create a pattern in our everyday lives of talking to God. Talk to God openly about what we need. Also, thank God for all He has done in the past; those memories give us confidence moving forward.

Today we’ll look at the fourth practical way to deal with worry – focus on positive things. “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.

Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”. I have always loved these verses; I marked them in my Bible when I was a teenager. It’s so easy to get immersed in negative things. The newspapers and TV news broadcasts are mostly about bad events happening in the world. If you listen in on gossip at work, it’s often about things others have done wrong, or complaints about the workplace. Then there are the folks in your life who tend to see all life as a glass half empty. At home, as parents, we get caught up in the crazy stuff our kids do – the messes they create, their disobedience, their disregard for consequences and as a result, the mistakes they make. All the chaos that children bring can so easily outweigh the joy they bring – you know that joy you experience when you check on them sleeping angelically as you head off to bed?

But God asks us to focus instead on the good things in life. I think that means in our thought life, but also in our everyday life. When I was going for counselling during my panic attack days, my counsellor told me that it’s impossible to think about two things at once. I remember at the time, trying my best to disprove what he said, but realized he was right. It was during that time that I started to figure out how to replace worry and anxiety with a more positive outlook. So, I thought I’d share some of the practical things I learned back then, and maybe that will get you thinking about how you can do the same.

Memorizing scripture is a fantastic way of fighting depression and anxiety. Memorize verses that speak to your heart personally. Another verse that I love is “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). That verse is on my bedroom wall at the foot of my bed. There are tons of comforting verses in the Bible; write/print them out and post them in places where you will see them frequently.

When you find yourself worrying way too much, write your worries down on a paper. It’s amazing what actually having to put them into words does for you. Then refute your worries on that same paper. Write what you know to be actually real. Most of our worries are about what if … . They may be possibilities, but are not likely to happen. During my major panic days, I had a small item that I carried around from room to room to remind me that with God’s help I could survive this. It was a small vase with artificial daffodils – for me a sign of spring and a new start. It wasn’t as obvious as a verse tacked somewhere in the room, but I would look at it and think about a comforting verse or say a prayer asking God to help me.

Another way of reducing worry is to get involved in something that you have to think about, but is not stressful. My big projects during those days were artsy – counted cross-stitch and needlepoint. It’s really hard to stay focused on worries when you are counting which squares you need to do in one colour, and figuring out which colour is required next. The bonus to all that are some really nice pieces I framed and still have hanging in my home. So find something you enjoy, and when your worries are making your stomach churn, turn to that activity. It may be working out, doing yard work, fixing something, chatting with a friend on social media – whatever does the trick for you.

Doing something for someone else also helps reduce your own anxiety, especially in these days of Covid-19. Can you call someone you know lives alone and chat with them for awhile? Can you send a card – or even make one yourself – to make someone’s day better? Can you drop off a bag of candy, some flowers, or some store baked goods on someone’s porch ? Is there some gardening or planting you could do for an elderly neighbour – if you’re outside and they’re inside or on their porch, you are still far enough away.

All those things are positive things that help keep us calmer. But really the major thing is developing a faith and trust in our Heavenly Father. During moments of anxiety, there is nothing like talking with God and telling Him all about it. Go looking for verses of strength and comfort in your Bible – just leave that Bible open on your kitchen counter, on your desk, or on your dresser – wherever there is a space to put a book. Then when you have a rare free moment, you can go looking for those verses.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me— everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

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