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Monday, April 13, 2020

Run toward peace

“One day the coronavirus will be in history books, and we’ll get to say we lived through it!”  This is what my friends and I talk about these days.  For one, there’s not much else to talk about at the moment; and two, I guess this is how we reassure ourselves about our chance at being famous when we aren’t really going to be famous.  

The coronavirus seems to be the topic of the year as it suddenly blasts apart everything we knew as “normal life.”  I’ve discovered that I had kind of expected my life and the world around me to maintain some sort of stability and predictability…then came the coronavirus, reminding me that life is totally not predictable and that I need to be constantly prepared to peacefully ride out whatever life throws at me.

Easier said than done, right?  A lot of people in the world today struggle with anxiety, and COVID-19 has seemed to compound that issue.  Understandably so because everything about life has drastically changed for the majority and every day is a wondering game of how life will shift next.  Sometimes it feels pretty scary.  To be honest, I have struggled with anxiety for several years, and I was tempted to let anxiety take the wheel when the world felt like it was turning upside down as a result of the coronavirus shutdowns.  Anxiety is hard to defeat and easy to succumb to because I don’t choose to become anxious.  It just imposes itself upon me as it sees fit.  

The good news is that, through the Bible, we know that God is not surprised or disappointed when we struggle with anxiety.  How do I know that?  Because there are many biblical instances in which God gives us the cure for anxiety, which tells me that He is fully aware of and present in this struggle.  So what is the cure?  Actively searching out peace for our lives.  Think about it: if you want to become fit but never make the effort to exercise or choose nutrition, you are not going to reach your goal.  In order to get the results that you want, you have to endure self-discipline and take action toward becoming fit before it actually happens.  I believe the same is true for replacing anxiety with peace.  We must actively pursue it rather than just hope that peace will come on its own.  Romans 14:19 tells us to “pursue the things which make for peace.”  Psalm 34:14 says to “seek peace and pursue it.”  Psalm 37:37 promises that “a future awaits those who seek peace.”  I could go on simply because God has hinted (not so subtly) many times over that He desires for us to seek peace in order to escape the damaging results of anxiety.

So by now you might be wondering how you’re supposed to suppress anxiety and “pursue peace” when life is spinning out of control?  It’s not exactly like getting fit because peace is not a tangible, measurable thing.  Well, I obviously haven’t mastered pursuing peace because I still experience anxiety, but I have created a strategy for when I sense it setting in.

1. Identify anxiety and call it what it is when I feel it coming.  Don’t passively let it crop up and hang around on its own terms.
2. Pray for God to fill the anxious places with Himself.  “Come to Me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28, 29) Be open and honest with God about the anxiety and ask for His support as I actively run the other way.
3. Soak in the Bible.  I have go-to verses that help me become grounded again, and I pray these verses into my life.
4. Reflect on things I'm thankful for.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) I believe this verse says “with thanksgiving” because a thankful perspective can go a long way in shutting down an anxious heart.
5. Do something I enjoy or that makes some particular area of my life feel more peaceful (organizing something) in order to regain some perspective on life again.

I confidently believe that God wants you to experience peace in exchange for anxiety.  “He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.” (Ephesians 2:17).  Better yet, “He Himself is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:14) You can decide that anxiety is not your name brand anymore because there is something so much better available to you: the peace of Christ.  Run after it, and you will find that anxiety can't keep up with you.

[What are your strategies for seeking peace when anxiety moves in?]

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