“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 4:6-7
If you, like me, come from a family with a history of anxiety and depression, you read verses like this and struggle a bit. For us, anxiety is not something we consciously choose. It’s thrust upon us. In 2009 I gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Ben. He was my ‘rainbow baby’, the child I was able to give birth to after losing a baby two years earlier. The risk of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety increases after a miscarriage. Something I wish I had known since I experienced PPA after Ben was born.
With my family’s history of depression and anxiety, I knew what the signs were when the symptoms descended on me in the hospital room. It was two weeks later when I shared with my doctor what I was feeling and we worked up a plan for when good mental health hygiene had to be augmented with medication and intervention. I never did choose the medication route, but in part it was my stubborn refusal to admit I needed more help. My determination to rock my day job and motherhood no matter the cost to my health drove me through it. But I’m not sure that was the best choice. It wouldn’t have taken such a toll if I had just said, “yeah, how about those meds…” So I suffered. Reader, it was more than a year before I felt anywhere close to normal. If you’re going through it right now, sit down and talk with your medical professional and seriously consider all the help they can give.
It’s important to state as well that there is a difference between the fear and anxiety of every day life and the clinical anxiety you need doctors and medicine for. What this Bible verse above is talking about is not clinical anxiety. If you are crippled by fear, overcome with anxious thoughts, you need to call your doctor. Don’t think this verse is talking about what you’re experiencing now. It’s not.
So, what about that everyday sort of fear that creeps in and steals our peace? Right now we are all navigating a pandemic together. Some of us are simply going on with normal life, refusing to let the crisis impact us. Others have already felt the sting. Maybe it’s been the lost of a loved one, or a job, or you’ve contracted the disease yourself and been through it. Whatever it is, many of us are burdened by the concerns this has forced upon us. It’s a difficult time.
This crisis has stripped away any illusion I had that I am in charge of my own life. I am in charge of nothing. True, I am the family COO to my husband’s CEO, but as much as I can direct grocery pickups and vitamin regimes, I cannot keep the pandemic at bay, only God can do that. We’re a high-risk household (auto-immune diseases and asthma) so for us, this is life and death. It’s been agonizing to choose between pulling the kids from school or letting them go back. Managing risks run hand in hand with trusting in God’s providence.
As Christians, we give our lives over to Jesus. “Take my life and let it be consecrated lord to thee…” We give up directing our own futures and it’s far better since any illusion of control is a lie anyway. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. That’s what the verse above is about. When life is hard, when it gets to life and death matters, we need to pray, to place our faith in God, knowing that whatever the outcome, if it’s His will, it’s the right one.
If you’re searching for peace, if it’s feeling elusive, where are you at with God right now? Are you running for cover, taking shelter in small comforts that distract you from what you’re facing? I know that all too well. If you want peace, the real stuff, you’ve got to step away from all of that and pray, earnestly seek God’s will in your life. And don’t forget to read the Bible. I know that sounds like your Aunt Edna’s advice, but as annoying as she might have been, she was not wrong. The Bible is God talking to you. If you feel like He’s distant and unknowable, then go to where he’s present, the book He has given to us.
Where is your heart right now? It is tied up in petty, worldly stuff that is getting you angry and frustrated? Let that all go. Pull out your Bible and read. Hit your knees (figuratively) and pray. God is waiting. That peace that passes all understanding is waiting. What are you waiting for?