It’s quite possible I’ve used this exact title before, but it’s relevant today so if I have . . . well, I guess I’m sorry . . . maybe.
I love, love, love (maybe that’s one love too much? Nah . . . ) the holiday season. There’s something about the months of November and December . . . the blur of Thanksgiving into Christmas . . . and yes, like it or not, it all runs together . . . not to worry though, we love and celebrate all the holidays. We gobble ’til we wobble whilst decking those halls. But let’s be real Jesus trumps it all because He literally is the reason for the entire season, whether it be Thanksgiving or Christmas, as far as I’m concerned. (And I’ll stop with the clichés now . . .)
But also, November, in particular, is a crazy month that leads into an equally busy but slightly calmer December. From mid October to yesterday, between church and school, I ended up either being in charge of or very involved in helping with five different but important, events. While I generally am an advocate for either delegating or flat out saying “no” to things that take time and energy from my marriage and family, these events are ones that I feel the need, not compulsion but need, to say “yes” to. Because sometimes a “yes” is necessary. Add to that the normal holiday season stressors . . . family dynamics . . . upcoming holiday parties . . . disagreements about “stuff” . . . all the normal, read: crazy, that goes into all of it . . . and along with the love, love, love can come anxiety, anxiety, anxiety.
Anxiety is something with which I’ve wrestled my entire life. It can present in different ways, sleepless nights, my brain refusing to shut off, an upset stomach, or sheer exhaustion, but there are certain times when it amps up exponentially. And when I let anxiety get going I become rigid, my perfectionistic tendencies multiply, and I start to worry about and take on other people’s problems, to allow myself to be drug into the drama, when it is neither my place nor my issue.
Here’s the the thing. Anxiety is a liar on so many levels. It tells us we’re broken and unfixable, a total failure at everything . . . it tells us we can maintain control by worrying about all the things going on around us (this one is my personal favorite and one I find myself employing way too often) . . . it tells us we must do more, be more perfect, try harder but also, we are never going to measure up no matter how hard we try . . . which isn’t totally a lie because none of us are Jesus and that’s why we can’t measure up . . . He is our righteousness . . . He is our goodness . . . trying harder and doing more only lead to more exhaustion.
So what’s the solution to all the crazy? Because I know I’m not alone in this.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
Paul gives us step by step instructions here:
- “Rejoice (be glad) in the Lord always.” Always . . . all the time. And then he says it again . . . with an explanation point for good measure. “Again I will say, rejoice!” I can honestly say that I’m never more willing to relinquish control than when I’m praising God. It reminds me over and over that He truly is in control, and any control I have is only an illusion.
- “Let your gentleness (let your gentle spirit) be evident (known) to all men.” Full confession. Gentleness isn’t one of my natural tendencies, but thank God I am redeemed. Galatians 5:23 says that gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and I have the Holy Spirit dwelling and living and operating in me ergo I am gentle. It often means stopping and asking the Holy Spirit to speak to me and through me before I plow ahead. It means filtering my words and deeds through Him first. It’s definitely a work in progress, but it is a work that He is doing.
- “Be anxious (have care) for nothing (no one, nothing), but in everything by prayer and supplication (a need, entreaty), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” The Bible says it, not me so if you don’t like it, take it up with God. It’s so simple, and yet, I struggle with it so hugely. I have to make a conscious effort to give it, whatever it may be, over to God. I have to be willing to give up control and basically dump all my junk, all my cares and worries on God. I have to earnestly pray and be thankful, knowing He does hear and He does listen and trust that He is working even when when I don’t see it. God wants us to communicate with Him. He wants us to ask. He wants to hear from us. It doesn’t have to be eloquent. It just needs to be real. And it’s okay to tell Him you’re struggling with anxiety.
And the promise that follows, in verse 7 is so very sweet, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (comprehension), will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
But in order to receive that incomprehensible peace we first have to let go. I’ve said before that I can often be heard muttering, in a half joking manner, “Jesus take the wheel”, but the reality is, I never utter those words unless I really mean them. While the words may be lighthearted, the prayer is very real. I am totally unqualified to drive this vehicle without God, and when I try, the tension and anxiety mount until they are almost unbearable. I can buckle down and keep on trucking, or I can turn back to Paul’s words in Philippians. I do not have all the answers, but I know the One who does. The world may be absolute chaos around me, but I have a personal relationship with the Prince of Peace. Others may be harsh and unyielding, but I can allow gentleness to reign (amongst other things . . . see Galatians 5). I can trust God for peace and protection no matter what comes. However, all of it only happens if I seek God first and allow the Holy Spirit to have control of my heart and my life.
So here’s to Peace this holiday season. Here’s to remembering, amidst all the crazy, why we celebrate. Here’s to letting go.
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