“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
I imagine Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, agonizing internally when he recognized his young betrothed was pregnant. No angel told him this. He became aware of the startling development from the lips of his young, virginal fiancée and her expanding waistline.
Before I moved to Afghanistan in 2005, I saw fictionalized movie footage of stonings that truly happened to guilty women under the impossible rule of the Taliban in the late 1990s. The first time I passed the Kabul soccer field where the executions took place, I wondered how such madness was allowed. In the days of Mary and Joseph, similar public punishments took place for those who broke the religious or cultural laws of the day. Men and particularly women caught in sexual relationships outside of marriage could be stoned to death.
Joseph struggled with what to do to save the life of his now unmarry-able wife-to-be. God sent an angelic messenger to lead him out of falling apart, into an unknown, faith-required journey. Marry the pregnant woman, take her to your distant hometown for the government census, deliver the baby in an animal stall, and then flee for your lives to Egypt (after some Wise Men bring you some finances for the trip).
How Can This Be Happening to Me?
Joseph had to wonder why God orchestrated this unplanned, unwanted adventure. His reputation and his carefully outlined future were now thrown to the wind. What had he done to deserve this anxious situation? How could he move forward with so many uncertainties?
This is our same plight today as limited humans in an ever changing, no guarantees world. Anxiety is hitting all ages at all levels of living – socially, economically, and spiritually.
- We try to take care of our health, but we encounter illness and pain.
- We try to save and manage our finances carefully, but we incur debt and rising living costs.
- We try to serve and love our friends and family, but we misunderstand and are misunderstood.
- We try to do the right thing, but fall prey to laziness, selfishness, and impulsiveness, making messes and mistakes that cost us time and resources and perhaps relationships.
- We try to pray, give our problems and worries to God, but our chest still gets tight with panic and we find limited relief.
What is the Cure for Anxiety?
The Bible does not promise us trouble-free existence, actually the opposite. Jesus said in John 16:33 (NIV), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I encourage my counseling clients to cease trying to avoid, deny, or fight against anxiety. Instead energies are better spent acknowledging the situations that cause anxiety to rise and prepare wisely.
- When a known stressor is coming, review past success (and failure) to the situation.
- Create answers to the anxious questions looming in your mind of the most likely, the least likely, and even the worst-case scenarios.
- Play out what can be done in each occurrence so you feel somewhat ready for anything.
- Distract your thinking after spending quality time considering the cause of anxiety.
Take care of your body and mind:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Eat healthy foods to properly fuel the body and brain.
- Go outside for movement to increase oxygen flow and sunshine for Vitamin D.
- Practice silence and device-free times to offer margins for over-stimulated senses.
- Pray and call out to a loving Heavenly Father for assistance
God’s Reply When You’re Falling Apart
God sent an angel to Joseph. Don’t we wish He would do that for us! The visit served to answer all Joseph’s questions, “God is writing this story. He is right here with you. Trust and follow.”
That is what God communicated to all of us by sending His Son to live among us at Christmas. He showed His desire to be close to us, to identify with our needs and reveal His heart of love for all of His children who choose to draw close to Him.
Jesus says to us, “I know what your life is like, scary at times and full of struggles. Talk to Me about your worries. Look for My personal reassurances and answers to your questions. I am right here, helping you find the beauty of the life story God has already written.”
Respond like Joseph, rise up, trust God’s plan and follow. Don’t let anxiety win. God is near.