Anxiety is a powerful and all too common emotion. This morning I had it right at the start of my day. I literally woke up with a vague but negative dream that had me trembling with anxiety. Worst of all, the only detail that stood out was that it was tied up with pressures at church.
As I sat beside the bed, I thought “This is crazy!” Then an old favorite verse came to mind. It is one that I wrote down and carried in my wallet for years. Every time I got fearful or anxious I pulled it out and meditated on it. There were periods of time it was pulled out a lot! That verse is one where Jesus tells us of a very precious gift he gave us.
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27
Look with me at the end of the verse first – “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” There Jesus is simply telling us what NOT to do. It sounds so simple yet how often do we let our hearts be troubled and fearful. How often do we dwell on the troubles, fear, and anxiety? In effect, we meditate on them, filling our hearts and minds with them. I know I have done that too often and I could have done that this morning on waking up.
One of the problems with letting our hearts and minds be troubled, fearful and anxious is that then there is no room for anything else. Those emotions take over and run rampant in our being. Not just in our minds but in our bodies too. Think of all the physical ills those emotions aggravate or cause. Ulcers and high blood pressure are just two examples.
This also creates a problem with accepting Christ’s gift of peace. Think about this example: in your living room is a very old worn eyesore of a couch. However, it does the job and you cannot afford a new one. A friend decides to give you a new one and has the store deliver it. You are thrilled, but a problem arises. There is no place to put the new one because you are so attached to the ratty old one you won’t get rid of it. The living room is not big enough for both couches. If we are not willing to let go of the troubles, fear and anxiety filling our hearts, there is no room left for Christ’s peace.
So this morning, first I had to sit there and let go of that dream with all the trouble, fear, and anxiety that came with it. I have had lots of practice at doing this so the process is getting a bit easier. But all too often this is difficult. Like the old couch we simply get quite attached to the fear and anxiety.
Of course, there can be another aspect of this and it is very positive. There is the possibility of being so filled with Christ’s peace that there is simply no room left for the fear and anxiety. So when the fearful and anxious moments come, they just have to keep moving on, there is nowhere for them to take up residence. This sounds far-fetched, but it is surely a wonderful goal to pursue.
Another problem is that sometimes we simply think that the issue behind the troubled heart, fear and anxiety is simply too big. This is when it is good to remember what Jesus said a bit later in John. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Jesus and his peace are bigger than that issue.
Going backwards in the verse again is a very important phrase “not as the world gives do I give to you.” Whenever I read it, I think back to one year getting my taxes prepared. Our tax preparer got excited and told us “Wow it looks like they are saving you a large amount of taxes!” Then he worked through several more lines and “Oh no, they took back everything you saved back there!” That is one way the world can give; either it takes it back or attaches lots of strings to it. Jesus is making an important statement here – he is not giving peace like that.
Then I started accepting Christ’s gift. Thanking him for it is important, so be sure to include that step. Then I started imaging Christ’s peace filling my mind, my heart, flooding my entire being, calming everything down. I spent a good amount of time on this step. It makes for a wonderful meditation and I realize doing so would be a very good and helpful exercise.
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you;” That is Jesus’ gift to me and you.
Paul describes this peace in Philippians 4:7 this way, “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Christ’s peace is that big, bigger than we can possibly comprehend. Plus it guards our hearts and minds!
This morning I made a decision to clear the way for Christ’s peace to come and fill my being. My hope is that this can help your day too.