Monday, December 17, 2018
Light three candles…begin your prayer time by lighting the first two purple candle, the Hope and Peace candles…and light the rose or pink candle…the Joy Candle.
READ: Philippians 4:4-7
4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
4:5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So, I may be revealing too much here, but I am going to risk it. This is a safe space, right?!?
As a teenager, I worried a lot. I had a pretty good deal of pent up anxiety. I remember very clearly being told that worry is a sin. I also remember being told again and again that sin equals death which equals hell. Guess where my worrying brain went? Right to hell. You might giggle, but I still think about that, and still intentionally correct it in my head.
After working in child welfare for more than 10 years, I know better now how the brain works. The brain works, or doesn’t work, based on a lot of things outside the control of our faith. Just like the heart or lungs can take damage and stop working properly, the brain can as well. This is not weakness. Worry is not weakness.
Sometimes we are born in ways that our brains aren’t working perfectly, and medication is required. Trauma literally damages the brain, they can see it on scans. A person with trauma must rebuild trust while the brain is working to heal itself. What some might call worry, they might call survival. Another example is ADHD (undiagnosed as it may be when one is a child). ADHD has as a part of its reality, anxiety. A person with ADHD can see multiple steps ahead of where the rest of the world is at the time. It is called Tetris brain in our house. I see it in me and in my son all time.
Worry is normal. Worry is reality. Worry can even be a healthy stressor that moves us to the next step in a process. Worry is NOT this thing that means we aren’t faithful or that we don’t trust God. And…worry certainly does NOT mean one is going hell. Good grief. Lets just clear that up right now.
What Paul is suggesting here is that despite our realities and hardships, God is either the object of our rejoicing or the grounding for which we rejoice. Remember from earlier devotions that Paul is writing from prison. What better place to worry? What better place to have permission to NOT rejoice?
The people, the Philippians, were living these complicated double lives as citizens of a community that did not want them to be Christian and as those very Christians. Paul wasn’t saying to them, just give your worries to God and your reality will change…Paul was saying, that in the midst of your reality, awkward and frightening as it may be, that God’s got you! There is place in our hearts for rejoicing when we trust that God’s got us…even in the midst of our own prisons. Sometimes, that looks like a friend. Sometimes, that looks like asking for help from a doctor or taking a medication. Sometimes, that looks like taking a break from all the busyness to stop and listen to the voice of God…so that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
God of Reality, your Son, God himself, was not immune from pain and anxiety about what would happen to him on the cross. We know that life gets to us. There are times when we ourselves, or those we love, have more than is manageable. May we be that safe space for them to hear a word of comfort. May we listen as you listen. May we love as you love. And may we find that listening love in others when we are in need. Rejoicing in the knowledge and comfort and joy that your love is never failing, we pray these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Messiah. Amen.
What creative ways to you manage worry? Share with a friend or in the comments below.
About Mitzie…Mitzie Schafer is a Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Florida Gulf Coast University and a Master of Art in Religion from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary with a concentration in Christian Education and Christian Spirituality. She has been writing curriculum and teaching faith formation for more than ten years. Mitzie’s faith is grounded in the belief that God is the initiator and we are the respondent. That God’s yes is always bigger than our no. That being created in the image of the Creator, makes us by our very nature, creative. And that God LOVES ALL people.
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