As I grow up, I find myself wishing so hard to be a child again. As I age, my personality traits become more extreme: workaholic, driven, obsessive, perfectionist. Traits that can certainly be given as a blessing, but can be used as a curse if I am not careful. And with my drivenness comes another repercussion that I knew not when I was young: anxiety & fear.
As a child, I was carefree and so in love with Jesus. So unhindered by the things of the world, because I was not forced to truly live in the world. But as we become adults, living in this world becomes important and we begin to find our place in society….often taking on the traits that society breeds.
I have found that the more driven I become, the more anxious I am. Lately, I have struggled with this more than ever. I manage a lot of people within my company and we are growing, so there is always something to fix. It could be 10pm at night and I could be watching a movie with Ryan, but still I feel this urge within me to forever check my email, to forever fix things, to answer asks, to keep working because something in me finds false value in that.
And when I do these things, I am very vulnerable to Satan’s attacks because I am not working out of a balanced overflow of God’s rest in my life. He attacks me by using anxiety - a feeling that causes us to have no hope for the future and to wish the certain event we are fearing to be over. But if I were to haveanxiety over multiple things - my job, my tumblr, my lack of organization.... am I not just wishing all of these things away? Hoping they will all be over so I don’t have to feel fear anymore? What sadness to wish your life away because of fear.
Anxiousness can be at the root of many problems. It can cause you to act in ways that are normally not yourself, because really you are just reacting out of fear that is rooted deep in your life.
As I was reading the word the other day, I came across a verse that I hadn’t noticed before. In John 16, Jesus is speaking to his disciples about his death and how they will experience great sadness……but there will come a time after his resurrection when it changes. In verse 22 he says that after his resurrection, "no one will take your joy away.”
This verse is rich with implication that there is a permanent joy that will come after Christ’s resurrection. This will happen when they are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Reading this verse was a little lightbulb for me. So often I justify my anxiousness as just the suffering of what it means to live on earth. I really can lie to myself and forget that I truly have control over the way fear sucks the joy right out of me. I should be fighting for that joy.
What Jesus is saying in this verse is that a time is now here where we can always have hope….because the essence of hope lives inside of us now as the Holy Spirit. So when sin comes and sadness comes, your permanent joy should well up inside of you.
This is crazy amazing to me.
I have joy living inside of me, etched into my DNA, hoping always, living wildly free in the love of my savior.
But how do I access this joy? When I get over-obsessive about my job, or worried about how pointless I feel my situation is, it is easy to build a cage around my mind, almost protecting these anxious thoughts….because sin feeds off of it. How do we break that cage down and allow the joy that is within us to bubble over?
Some things that God’s really been teaching me lately are these three things:
1. Thanksgiving changes things.
When I stop worrying about my worry problem and just start thanking God for stuff in instead…..my heart changes.
Philippians 4:6-7 says "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
It can be a cliche verse in the Christian world, but this verse seriously holds the key to setting me, and perhaps you, free to lead a life that is etched with permanent joy. How do we not worry about anything? We pray. How do we pray? With thanksgiving.
We see Jesus demonstrate this time and time again. When he spoke with his Father his prayers were rich with thanksgiving. This thanksgiving is what changes our hearts. It breaks the stone away until our heart becomes flesh again.
When I allow fear and anxiety to creep into my life, I can almost feel my heart become stone. I do not want to pray. I don’t really care about anything except myself. I can scream and cry and beg for change in my life, but my own heart only really changes when I stop yelling thousands and thousands of words and just utter the small phrase in my hoarse voice - ‘thank you.’
Thanksgiving allows the flood gates to open and it gives you a vision and a hope for your future. Thanksgiving through prayer allows the peace of God to guard your heart and your mind. It will destroy the fear that tries to creep in and it will allow the permanent joy, which is given to you by the Spirit, to flourish.
I challenge you to take a week and just thank God. Worship him for what he is done in your life. I guarantee that you will be so busy noticing the beautiful things God’s given you in your life that you will start to forget how to be anxious.
2. Rest changes things.
This is a discipline. This is hard. In our culture we are taught that rest = lazy. We are one of the most overworked cultures of the world and our media and our technology is teaching us that we don’t ever have to turn off.
This is so hurtful to our hearts. I have felt the effects of this in my life and it has wreaked havoc. I bounce from work task to work task, getting more done than most and priding myself on it. When I get home, I run to the gym. Then, I get on my tumblr, I answer asks and write blogs and stay busy. Even when Ryan comes home and wants to rest, I often need to find something to do while just sitting on the couch. I play with my phone. I check my Facebook. And our culture glorifies this trait as the mark of a well put together and successful woman. But this causes destruction. If your success does not yield growth, joy, and the presence of God in your life.....it is not success.
God himself taught us in the beginning of Genesis that rest is important. Not just physical rest, but mental rest too. The battle is all in the spiritual world, so shouldn’t we think it was important to rest our hearts and our minds as well?
Hebrews 4:9-11 says, "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”
Without rest, we fall into disobedience. Why? Because we do not have time to be in God’s presence, to let our hearts heal and refresh, and to refocus our hearts on the hope and permanent joy that the Spirit has put within us.
The idea of rest means that you take time away from your job, from technology, from busyness, and you allow Jesus to heal your heart.
As I put up structure in my life for this, I have decided to only work 5 days a week. On Saturday, I try to take that day as a day of rest. I go read a book. I go on a hike and pray. I do something my heart loves that is away from media, technology, phones, work, emails, and I just allow my heart to be a child again. On Sunday, I give that day back to the Lord as a day to serve and thank him for what he has done for me. (and I have accountability in my life to make sure I keep doing this....it's way too easy to try to go back to being busy just to be busy!)
With this implemented in my life, my heart feels more childlike than ever before. I can work hard through out the week without fear, without exhaustion, without the idea that I am drowning, and I can rest assured that Saturday is a day where I will be a little kid again, where my heart will be ministered to by the Spirit and my permanent joy will rise, giving me strength for the week ahead.
3. His presence changes thing.
In Psalm 16:11 it says, "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
In Jesus’ presence there is fullness of joy. When we allow for rest, we are able to also rest in his presence. He is then able to show us who we really are. This life is one reality. But there is a whole other reality, the true reality, of who we are really called to be in the spiritual. As we enter into thanksgiving and we implement rest, we need to learn to just stay in his presence…..because that's where we will see who we were meant to be and the hope that is to come for us. This will always well up a permanent joy inside of us, as our perspective will change and our hearts will begin to see the freedom we were called to walk in.
Faced with the life that the world presents to us, fear and anxiety and worry are normal things, things that any hard-working person should have to deal with. Right? I don’t think so anymore.
As I begin allowing thanksgiving to become a lifestyle, as I begin to take time to rest and be the child I used to be, as I take time to just be with Jesus and allow him to speak to my heart……there I find fullness of joy. The joy he talked about with his disciples. The kind of joy that stems from hope that is from his grace. That joy no one, no man or spiritual force, can ever, ever, ever take away from me.
Hey, friend! I'm Chelsie!
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