Okay last week I had to land the plane before my devotional turned into a book, so I wanted to pick up where we left off with the Apostle Paul’s plan to “combat anxiety”, which comes from Philippians 4:6-9.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-9 NIV
Just for review we talked about being “in a funk”. To be “in a funk” is a slang term that means you’re not quite yourself. It’s a mood. It can be a full on episode of depression, a nagging feeling of fear or panic, melancholy, or a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause. For some getting out of a funk may only take a couple of days or a week, but for others it’s not that easy, and sometimes we need help. The holiday season is notoriously hectic and stressful. It’s particularly tough for those who have lost loved ones, feel alone, or just don’t feel all warm and fuzzy this time of year. Some may even dread it.
Also, when Paul says, “Don’t be anxious about anything”, he’s not implying that we just need to “get over it”, “buck up little camper”, or “pull yourself together”. I’m sure He understood as much as anyone that mental stability is more complicated than that. While using cliché self-empowerment mantras or Christian platitudes like “Just pray about it” may be helpful, they aren’t a “fix all” for our problems. Here are a couple of examples:
- “I am the designer of my own catastrophe.”
- “I realized this week that I just can’t do it all. So I will choose to do what I can fabulously.”
- “Learn to rest, not quit.”
- “It’s up to you to find the beauty in the ugliest days.”
- “There are people who would love to have your bad days”
- “Don’t take yourself so seriously, no one else does.”
- “If you are stuck in a rut today, it’s because you got comfortable there.”
- “If plan “A” doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters.”
- “Talking about our problems is the greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.”
This is good stuff containing useful nuggets of truth or really annoying depending on your point of view. I especially like, “Learn to rest, not quit.” Added bonus, I got to include the word “nugget”. Feel free to post them on your wall or next Facebook post. I stole them from someone else and you can steal them from me. It’s a win-win. Use your “nuggets” wisely.
All of these “nuggets” have one thing in common; they are designed to “CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK”, which is part 2 of Paul’s plan to remove anxiety or “the funk”.
How we think, determines our reality. I’m not discounting feelings or physical health. How we feel physically has a huge impact on how we think, but sometimes our thinking can overcome what we’re feeling. Feeling and thinking aren’t mutually exclusive. They can happen at the same time, but thinking in some ways trumps physical feelings. Does that make any sense? Hopefully it does because it sounds good and I’m keeping it.
We learned last week that Paul’s first plan of action is to approach our heavenly father through “prayer and petition”. We can talk to God about what is going on. According to Paul, this is the best place to begin, not just because God has all the answers, which he does. We can tap into God’s guidance and wisdom directly through prayer and reading the Bible. But, Paul’s point of going to God first is, in part, because God cares for us the MOST. God has big shoulders we can cry on. He listens. He comforts. He encourages. He’s not just our Heavenly Father. He’s also DAD! In Romans 8:15, Paul refers to God as “ABBA”, not to be confused with the 70’s singing group of the same name. “Abba” is an Aramaic word meaning “father” or could be loosely translated as “daddy” or “dad”. It’s an affectionate title reserved for a loved one, and God loves us. Really, He does! It says so in the Bible.
If you have some issues with thinking of God as a father, I completely understand. Just think of someone who’s got your back, that’s God. He’s your biggest fan and wants you to be okay. Also, if you don’t believe in God, then talk to someone. From my experience, talking to someone really helps. I’m an external processor, so talking is extremely therapeutic for me. However, I know how challenging it is to find someone who really listens and cares about you and your problems.
Ok, back to Paul’s second action plan of “CHANGING THE WAY WE THINK”. This is where the rubber meets the road. Changing the way we think is HARD WORK! It hurts my brain even thinking about it. Just like habits, we get into patterns of thinking. From the quote earlier, we can get “stuck in a rut” mentally. Getting out of that “rut” or “funk” can be an arduous task or a battle. We have to “re-train our brains”, or as Yoda says,“unlearn what you have learned”. Not everything that we learn, take in, or think is healthy, good, true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. This is Paul’s list straight out of Philippians 4:8. It’s Paul’s “thought evaluator”. If our thoughts aren’t good, true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, don’t think about them. If they don’t pass the “smell test”, throw them away. These 9 things are like detergent or maybe disinfectant for our thoughts. Paul wants us to use, apply, implement, and put these 9 things “into practice”.
Let me just say that I’m preaching to an audience of one here, me. I struggle with this too, so don’t “think” for a second that I have all this figured out. I don’t know about you, but I can be my own worst enemy. My thoughts are not always positive, especially when it comes to thinking about myself. I’m my own bully. There is nothing wrong with self-evaluation, in fact we should have a strong self-awareness, but there is a point where it crosses the line and becomes unhealthy, negative, toxic, self destructive, and even self-fulfilling prophecy, which is the opposite of what Paul is encouraging us to do. Again this is not a “one and done” scenario. It is an ongoing process. It’s a war, an ongoing “battle for the mind”. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul tells us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. Not every thought is a threat, but being alert or on guard is always a good strategy. We may not win every battle and sometimes we may be seconds away from being knocked out, but applying or putting Philippians 4:6-9 “into practice” gives us a game plan for staying in the fight. The great news is that we don’t have to do it alone. The peace of God will always be available.
Love y’all! Have a great weekend!
Weekly Devotional by Robby Morris, Director of Family Ministry & Facility Coordinator @ Andrews UMC.