When God Speaks Peace into Anxiety

Is your house decorated for Christmas?
Is the shopping done?
Cookies baked?
Letter or picture stamped and ready to be mailed?

Mine either. 

Christmas may be just weeks away, but I still have a ton to do to prepare. And I don't just mean our house - we might get that ready by Christmas Eve...

Usually during these weeks before Christmas, Advent, as the church calls it, people focus on four words - hope, love, joy and peace - all of which coordinate with the candles on Advent wreaths. For the next few weeks leading up to Christmas you'll find me centered on peace. Why just peace?

The other three words are important too, but peace is really standing out to me this year as something that is just so hard to hang on to lately. The unrest in our world, the chaos in our families, the craziness of daily life - peace is almost a joke to us sometimes. But we still want it. I want to see nations and leaders peacefully exist. I long for a marriage that doesn't include selfishness and disagreements. I would love it if my daily life was more joyful and less worrisome.

I'm guessing you probably want those things too. 

So for the next few weeks I'm looking into peace - God's peace - and what it might look like when God speaks peace into some common feelings we have this time of year (and all year, if we're honest):
Anxiousness
Stress
Worry
Fear

This week let's tackle anxiousness.

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We were laying in bed about to go to sleep. We both felt fine, had good days, enjoyed time together that evening and now we were in our cozy bed. Then it hit me like a freight train - a feeling like I had never felt before. It was hard to breathe and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. As I tried to catch my breath the terrifying thoughts swarmed my mind. Not only was I scared about what was happening to me, but I couldn't shake the feeling that something horrible was going to happen to someone I love - no one in particular, just someone close to me. 

Thank God for a patient and loving husband with a smartphone. For better or worse, to get us through the night, he diagnosed the situation as an anxiety attack and did his best to help me calm down. He told me what was likely going on and that it could take a little while for the feeling to pass. He asked me if I could tell him the Lord's Prayer. We said it together line by line. And again. And another time. Pretty soon the feeling subsided and we did get some rest.

I haven't had anything like that since that night (and nothing horrible happened to anyone close to me). But it was incredibly scary and I thank God that Jeff was there to help me through it. And even thought it only happened that one time, I still learned some things thought it, not the least of of those lessons - anxiety is a real thing, it can come seemingly out of nowhere, and it can be really hard to shake. Please be patient and understanding if you have a friend who struggles with anxiety on a regular basis.

In the midst of those thoughts and the fear of an unknown situation I couldn't think clearly enough to remember to take the problem to God. When those uneasy feelings wake up the butterflies in us it's easy to forget where God is and what he's promised. Even in less intense times of anxiousness God's peace seems unreachable. We can too easily get strung out and become unglued, and when that happens we can hardly see a way out of the mess in our minds, much less sense God's presence with us. 

When we're face-to-face with the daunting tasks of Christmas - buying the perfect gifts, making our homes look beautiful, going the extra mile to serve and provide for others - we can so quickly lose focus and become discouraged. Because our gifts might get returned, the neighbor's house looks more festive and we run out of time to do much more than throw some change into the red kettle. And it's not just Christmas. We try to juggle all the things we're "expected" to do at work, home and still have some semblance of a social life. But we can't do it all and when we realize that we become distressed and disheartened.

What can we do? Let God's peace take care of us. His is a perfect peace. His peace will never fail us. His peace doesn't rest on our ability, our perfection or our focus. Praise God for that. God's peace holds us together when we're coming undone. It gives our strung out tension some release. It calms us down and gives us strength to face whatever challenge lies ahead of us.

When I start to feel like I'm coming undone, when my heart starts beating a little faster and thoughts crowd my mind, I need to refocus. God needs to refocus me. I can't re-glue my unglued self. Only God can do that. And, being the great Fixer that he is, he does it for me. God speaks his peace into my life like only he can. He reminds me I'm his daughter and he loves me. He focuses my mind back on himself and on his promises. He lets me know he's there with me. Sometimes he uses a prayer like the Lord's prayer. Other times he uses my husband's words as he prays for me and over me. Maybe he brings a Bible verse or song to my mind. However he chooses to do it, he always lets me know I'm not alone and this feeling doesn't have to rattle me.

God's Advent peace speaks into our anxious hearts and minds and refocuses us where we belong - with him.

I bless God every chance I get;
my lungs expand with his praise.
I live and breathe God;
if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:
Join me in spreading the news;
together let’s get the word out.
God met me more than halfway,
he freed me from my anxious fears.
Look at him; give him your warmest smile.
Never hide your feelings from him.
When I was desperate, I called out,
and God got me out of a tight spot.
Psalm 34:1-6 (The Message)
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