Choosing Serenity

Are you feeling anxious? The world we live in gives us plenty of reasons for concern. While I watched our Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister of Ukraine hold a press conference yesterday about the outbreak of war and I felt cold fear creep over me.  The following news of inflation and rapidly rising energy costs brought more worry. Then, a friend let me know that the news about his lung cancer was grim.  My mind wandered into worry about health.  Who has not had a day like that when life’s troubles and trials darken the future?

Sensing the rising angst, I turned off the news, quieted my heart, and prayerfully took those needs and more to the One who tells me “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1, NIV)  I am a man who is predictable, who plans, who likes his routine habits- coffee at the same time, dinner at 5, order in his home. Disrupt those things and my natural response is to become anxious.

Yes, I know that I can choose serenity.  Today, in the predawn darkness, I prayed that God’s peace would be mine and that He would use me to bring peace to those with whom I interact this day.

If you are feeling some level of anxiety about life, you are by no means unique. About half of adult Americans report that they are stressed, worried, and anxious. Around a quarter of us experience anxiety that is disrupting life significantly, more than passing concerns.

Christian we are not helpless victims of fear nor need we wave the flag of surrender to anxiety. One of God’s gifts to His children is peace. It is available to us for the asking and is received by faith. The night before He went to the cross Jesus told His friends that they were going to experience hard times, but that the Holy Spirit would come to live in them.  

Read His promise to them and us. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27, NLT)  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  It’s not a suggestion or a wishful idea. It is a directive for the Christian life.

Paul’s words are perhaps familiar but their familiarity does not rob them of their powerful truth. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT)  Choose serenity!

What are some practical steps
we can take to experience God’s gift of serenity?

Pray! Start there.  At the risk of stating the obvious, your prayers need not be eloquent, long, or even impassioned. God only asks that we turn our hearts to Him with a grain of faith. Your prayer can be as simple as quietly saying the name of Jesus like a child murmurs about her Mama. The Psalm urges us to ‘be still and know that I am God.’  Some of the most powerful prayers are wordless.

Share! Anxiety grows when we try to wrestle with it alone. Ask a friend to listen to your heart’s cry. Watch out for those who rush in to ‘fix’ you, who imply that your troubles must be the result of some failing in you. They may be right but in the moment of our fear we need to be cared for with compassion even more than instructed.  Jesus reminds us of the power of agreement with God and others. He says that He is present when just two or three gather in His Name and that as we agree in prayer, the world changes.

Commit yourself to God’s care!  Sometimes when I feel the weight of many concerns I extend my hand palm upwards and I visualize my needs held there. Then I lift that hand towards the heavens, as I commit those needs consciously and intentionally to the Lord. Perhaps that sounds silly to you but it helps me. 

Remember King Hezekiah in his time of trouble? He was threatened by the military might of Assyria in a letter that demanded tribute. “After Hezekiah received the letter and read it, he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: “O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth.” (2 Kings 19:14-15, NLT)  He gave it to God.  We can enjoy the gift of peace when we actively let God be God.

Today, whatever your concerns, choose serenity. It is a discipline to do so. Sometimes we apparently like our worries, holding onto them, talking endlessly about them, fretting to anyone who will listen. Such is human nature, but God invites us to live differently – people who know His peace.

The word from the Word comes from the preacher, Isaiah, who was inspired to write of peace:

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,
whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

He humbles the proud and brings the arrogant city to the dust.
Its walls come crashing down!
The poor and oppressed trample it underfoot.

But for those who are righteous, the path is not steep and rough.
You are a God of justice, and you smooth out the road ahead of them.
Lord, we love to obey your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.

All night long I search for you; earnestly I seek for God.”

(Isaiah 26:3-9, NLT)

(Video of this blog at this link)

______________

Wonderful Peace

Far away in the depths of my spirit today
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm
In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm

Peace peace wonderful peace
Coming down from the Father above
Sweep over my spirit forever I pray
In fathomless billows of love

I am resting today in this wonderful peace
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day
And His glory is flooding my soul

Ah soul are you here without comfort and rest
Marching down the rough pathway of time
Make Jesus your friend ere the shadows grow dark
O accept this sweet peace so sublime

Warren D. Cornell | William G. Cooper © Words: Public Domain

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