There’s an alternative to letting stress and anxiety rule your day.
It was a perfect example of pandemic paranoia. I was heading out of the pharmacy, and a woman was rushing behind me. Before I could even get out the door, she lowered her mask and coughed all over my back. In sheer panic, the first thing I did when I got home was spray Clorox bleach all over my shirt. Kill those germs.
Later, when my wife Carol came home, she looked askance at me. “What did you do to the back of your shirt?” I took it off and looked. My once blue-striped shirt was now full of blotchy orange and yellow. Ruined by my excessive bleach spraying.
Why not just take off the shirt at home and throw it in the laundry? Or why not just take a shower? These are stressful times, and anxiety can get the best of us. We do stupid even harmful things. I decided I needed a big dose of joy more than bleach. Time to turn to the Good Book.
1) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
I like to think we rejoice when everything is going great. When we’re at a wedding, say, and feel like celebrating with good food and friend and music. But it’s worth remembering that Paul wrote these words when he was in prison. Rejoice when you’re in jail and might not ever get out? Yes, rejoice.
2) I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. (Philippians 1:3-4)
I found myself entranced with this one short book of the Bible, full of help. Like these words from Paul right at the beginning. What does Paul do when he’s stuck? He prays for others. Prays for the people of Philippi to whom he’s writing. With joy.
Feeling anxious and stuck? Pray for others. I could pray for that woman at the pharmacy and her cough. With joy.
3) In your relationship with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)
Scholars suspect these verses were part of an early hymn of the church. Paul singing in prison? Sure. We can do just the same when we’re stuck and anxious and scared. Sing of our closeness to Christ, who became just like us.
4) I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)
So where do we get the strength? How do we find the joy we need? Paul makes it pretty clear.
5) Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
Practice positive thinking. Even now. Especially now.
Every morning during breakfast, instead of reading the news on my phone, and diving headfirst into the stress of our world, I read a couple of psalms and then a chapter from one of the gospels. It puts my mind in a better place. The newspaper can wait. The Good News can’t.