As I drove to the airport, my only thought was, “Lord, I’m worn-out.” Never have I needed a vacation as much as I did in that moment. I felt beaten-up emotionally, mentally, and physically, and I needed a break from all the stress and problems of life. I begged God for seven perfect days so that I could return home restored, ready to take on life once again.
While sitting on the plane waiting for it to take off, the verses of Philippians 4:6-7 kept coming to mind: “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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
I have heard these verses so many times in my life that I can actually quote them. Yet knowing them hasn’t made it any easier for me to “be anxious for nothing.” Maybe it’s just me, but I find it difficult to not worry when I have a chronic illness constantly rearing its ugly head. When doctors are telling me all the potential horrors that may one day occur in my body, I struggle to be thankful. And even though I know I shouldn’t worry, that doesn’t help me to stop worrying. If anything, I then become worried over the fact that I’m worried! It’s a vicious cycle and one in which many of us find ourselves.
Shortly after I admitted to God that I needed His help in overcoming my fears and worry, I had an epiphany. Although I was praying and letting my requests be made known to God, I wasn’t thankful. I want to pause here and say that when God says we should be thankful, I don’t think He necessarily means we should be thankful for the pain and suffering we have to endure, although there’s nothing wrong with that. But truthfully, few of us can truly be thankful for the trials we are facing. However, we can be thankful for the many blessings God has given us. If you’re like me, you can be so overwhelmed with the stress and trials of the day that you forget to notice all the good things in your life. From waking up in the morning to having friends and family with whom to share this life, we all have many blessings we often take for granted. When we fail to be thankful for the good things in our lives, our perspective goes out of focus and we grow anxious. Yet all we have to do to regain our perspective is to thank God for whom He is and all He’s done for us. It’s hard to stay worried when you’re praising God.
That day when God opened my eyes to my lack of gratitude, I spent the remainder of my flight thanking God for every blessing I could think of in my life. Shortly before my plane landed, I saw the most amazing thing outside of my window. Huge, gray, billowing clouds were surrounding the plane, so much so that I could see nothing but clouds. All of a sudden, I saw a miniature shadow of the airplane reflected on the cloud directly beside my window. Surrounding the shadow was a circular rainbow. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It was as if God was saying, “Don’t worry. I’m taking care of you. You are surrounded by my love.” In that moment, I experienced what Paul described in Philippians 4:7. God’s peace flooded my heart and mind in a way that I can’t even begin to describe. My problems were still there, but they didn't seem nearly as big and complex as they had just four hours earlier.
As we begin a new year, I don’t know what challenges you’re facing. Some of you might have had a good year and hate to see 2012 end. Some of you, like me, may be praying God will change your circumstances in 2013. And some of you may simply be trying to survive and could care less about it being the New Year. Yet whatever you've been through in 2012 and will face in 2013, be it good or bad, my prayer for each of you is that you will be overwhelmed with God’s presence. I pray you will see that He has surrounded you with His love and your heart and mind will be guarded with His peace.
We can’t change what our illnesses do to our bodies, but we can change how we respond. So who’s with me?
“Those who trust in the Lord are secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.” ~ Psalm 125:1
© December 30, 2012