25 “I have spoken these things to you while I am with you. 26 The Companion [or Advocate], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.
27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.
Describing Jesus' last night before the cross, John wrote the ominous words, “When Judas took the bread, he left immediately. And it was night” (John 13:30). But the darkness didn’t overcome Jesus, the light of the world. With evil people plotting and Easter’s light only visible by faith, Jesus told his followers that he was leaving them his peace. His peace rested on the Holy Spirit’s presence with them, “not as the world gives.” If they could grasp it firmly, they could find Jesus' peace even at times of great fear.
Lord Jesus, thank you for offering me a peace that isn’t temporary, that nothing can take away from me. Now please help me to live into that peace more each day. Amen.
* William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John—Volume 2, Chapters 8–21, (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 171.
Sometimes (a lot of the time) anxiety doesn’t make sense. As Pastor Adam mentioned in this week’s sermon, we are in seemingly the best time to be alive. He quoted Daniel Gardner who said, “We are the healthiest, wealthiest, and longest lived people in history. And we are increasingly afraid.” Why, then, is anxiety so high? I’m not sure we can answer this directly, but I do think there are a number of things that suggest possible reasons for this growing feeling of angst. We live with a ‘sense of uncertainty’ – receiving information instantaneously from a number of platforms (social media, news outlets, text messages, emails, etc.). There is this overarching pressure to ‘keep up’ or ‘stay in the know,’ often self-inflicted. Even if you have “never experienced anxiety,” I trust you have probably felt the pressures of life’s stress, or had moments where you, in a sense, carried the weight of the world. I recently read The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal. Her basic message is that stress is a natural reaction that can and should be used for good. She writes, “When you embrace stress, you can transform fear into courage, isolation into connection, and suffering into meaning.”*
McGonigal’s book, along with other tools, have helped me with my personal journey with anxiety. Anxiety is a relatively new thing for me. I remember first feeling it about three years ago when I graduated from college. Until then, I had been one of those people who didn’t understand when others suffered from anxious feelings, who believed we all had the ability to “pick ourselves up” in challenging moments or times of tragedy. It wasn’t until I fully experienced anxiety for myself that my perspective began to change. Seeking knowledge (like McGonigal’s book) has helped me to remember the reality of my situation vs. how I think something will play out. It has helped me re-train my thinking and understand that I am not the only one in the history of forever who has experienced anxiety. If you are walking through anxiety, please, please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Literally millions of people face this every day. And it’s hard. And it sucks. But it’s real. And you can live through it and even find ways to overcome it.
Here are five things that have helped me in my journey with anxiety:
My stronghold throughout my journey with anxiety has been the Lord. I know that He is with me. And I also know that He lives in me. Exodus 4:12 has been particularly helpful in times I feel I am paralyzed with anxious thoughts, “Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” One of my favorite books is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl—a prisoner at Auschwitz who used his life experiences to help explain his logotherapy approach—the pursuit of one’s life purpose.In it, Frankl quotes German philospher Friedrich Nietzsche as saying, "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."**
Our Savior is our ‘why’ to overcome this (and any) ‘how’. When I am overwhelmed, I try to think about what Jesus must have felt the night before His crucifixion. He was so stressed and anxious that He actually sweat blood. He felt—he literally carried—the weight of the world. The Lord understands anxiety! I am thankful to have experienced anxiety personally because it enables me to better relate to, and empathize with, other people, while learning more about God’s character. I know anxiety is not from the Lord, but I do know He faced it. And overcame it. He is developing my character—using uncomfortable things—to make me more like Him. I am always humbled by this truth. And because of it, I will continue to press on—to fight the good fight—to become the woman God created me to be.
* Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, And How to Get Good at It. London: Vermilion, 2015.
** Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006, p. 104.
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