Peace In Anxious Times

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The Mindful Christian
Has there ever been a period when we as a people have been more influenced by the uncertainty of events in our lives? I cannot remember a time like this. We are assaulted on a physical level by the possibility of a virus entering our bodies, while on an emotional level we are experiencing a developing angst about the future. We feel vulnerable, and in some ways defenseless, about our safety.
Our brains, sensing this powerlessness and insecurity, does what God created it to do, kick in the fight or flight response. When that happens, massive stress hormones are released into our bloodstreams as an attempt to fight the impending doom. But the things we are scared of are not tigers or snakes, but rather the “what ifs” of our lives. What if I get the virus, what if I never get my job back, what if I go bankrupt, etc.? Since the body cannot fight this vague enemy, nor can it run from it, it instead freezes and feels the sense of anxiety that is created.

The question that all of us that call ourselves Christians have to answer is, do we have in our faith anything that differentiates us from non-believers? We are called to (John 15:19) recognize that we in the world but not of the world. What does that mean? It means that in our values and beliefs, we are to be different from the mindset of the world. So if the world gets caught up in the belief that we are vulnerable and susceptible to the “what ifs”, we are called to stand apart from this and think differently.

This does not mean that we should avoid the measures in place to reasonably protect ourselves. It just is true that we have resources to cope with the things that are out of our control. Humans like to be in control. Christians lean into the reality that God is in control.

A River Runs Through It

2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth is transformed and the mountains are toppled into the depths of the seas, 3though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake in the surge. Selah 4There is a river whose streams delight the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.… Psalms 46
This Psalm, one of my favorites, points us away from catastrophic thinking, and back to the Truth that God is at the center of all things. God is like a steady river that can be the quiet place of dwelling, when the external world seems as if it is fracturing. It is this resource, above all else, that gives to a believer a focus and resource that those who rely only on themselves or the government, do not have.

Peace That Passes Human Understanding

You will keep him in perfect peace,Whose mind is stayed on You,Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

Peace is the opposite of anxiety. It comes from a steady confidence that as we remember who God is, in all of His power and might, that we can shelter in the comfort of His wings. This verse points us to the fact that God will give us a peace that is hard to explain by the events of the world unfolding around us. This is because, the mindful Christian, stays mentally focused on the Truth that God is in control. Our minds stray, and get distracted, by the events going on around us. Peace does not come easily or naturally, but rather when we intentionally pursue a posture of keeping our mind stayed and settled on the Truth. The mindful Christian stays in the eye of the storm, where turmoil surrounds, but does not inhabit our inner confidence in God as our comfort and strong place of refuge.

Sanctified Souls
There has rarely been a time when we as believers have the opportunity to show an anxious world what it is like to experience peace in uncertain times. To be sanctified is to be set apart, to be different. In the herd mentality of contagious anxiety, part of the experience of “mass hysteria”, we as believers have the ability to stand apart.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,.. I Peter 3

When the world is in turmoil, we have the opportunity to show peace. It of course is counter-intuitive in a social phenomenon such as a pandemic. But it is the gift that comes from our daily and moment by moment mindful awareness of the river of trust that is offered to those who have placed their faith in God.

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14

The Discipline of Staying

The idea of peace that comes from letting our minds be stayed on God does not come easy. The mindful Christian develops an intentional process of focusing away from the anxious state of world affairs, and towards a full awareness of who God is and what he has promised. Mindful Christians remember who God is and when they stray mentally they keep coming back to what they know.

8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4

Drawing near is the discipline of the believer. We are like sheep that go astray, even in our mind focus. We must keep going back, learn to stay with the Truth, and God will honor this with the peace that passes human understanding (Phillipians 4:7)

A suggestion for a book that focuses on being a more mindful Christian is “Holy Noticing” by Charles Stone.

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