Welcome to part 3 of my holiday blog series, Trading Anxiety for Peace. Today we’ll discuss a practical way to bring peace into your holiday.
Dealing with Anxious Thoughts
Most of my anxious thoughts have a scarcity mindset at their root. When I don’t think I have enough, or that I’m good enough, the anxious thoughts whirl out of control. In anxious moments, I get too focused on the unknown future, and I feel afraid and alone.
Last Wednesday night, I drove home in a thick fog. Even though I have driven the same roads for 25 years, my route suddenly seemed foreign and threatening. I could see only as far as my headlights reached, and the path forward was covered by a dark curtain of clouds.
Since it’s deer season here in Missouri, I slowed my speed to 20 mph under the limit. The thought of deer jumping across my path without any time to react sent my heart racing.
Even though I needed to place all my focus on the road, I was worried about the deer. I had a measure of control over my path, but I had no control over the deer. That’s a typical picture of how my anxiety works. Instead of focusing on the main thing, I focus on the unknowns, and I lose my peace.
A New Plan
If an antidote exists for anxious thoughts, it’s thanksgiving. On my drive, I took a deep breath. I remembered the times God helped me navigate that curvy highway in heavy downpours. I remembered how he guided me when that highway was completely ice-covered. The thousands of times he protected me on that highway without me even knowing it. I thanked him for never leaving me alone, for always guiding me, and for caring so much about me.
All this happened in maybe half-a-mile of driving time, and my peace returned. I still had a job to do (get home safely), and I needed complete focus to do that. But I didn’t need to worry about anything else.
Jesus says, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” He knows we have plenty to handle right now. He doesn’t want us looking forward with fear; he wants us to focus on today with faith.
What is your trouble for today? This week?
This week, I have more than I can handle. Even today, there’s more to do than I can get done. When I think about all the tasks I need to accomplish, I literally feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins, which I notice when I get anxious. I am tempted to “fight” by attacking the tasks with fervor, but then I burn out and exhaust myself. I am also tempted to “take flight” by procrastinating and prioritizing lower tasks over important tasks.
God in the Details
If Jesus was sitting beside me right now, I think he’d say something like this. “Yes, you do have a lot on your schedule this week. But you have a choice. Will you handle it with the faith that I will give you the strength and peace to get it done? Or will you choose to take it all on yourself and destroy your peace?”
This is the system that works best for me. I divide my day into tasks. I set a timer for 45 minutes so I’m not sitting too long at my desk. When the timer sounds, I get up and do some exercises to get my blood flowing again. I look outside to help my eyes refocus and take in the beauty of God’s creation. I thank God for what I have accomplished and I ask him to help me with what’s next. Then I return to my tasks, refreshed and ready to go.
When I drive to town to pick up my children from school, I reflect on how the day progressed. I remember how overwhelmed and anxious I felt at the beginning. I remember my little conversations with God throughout the day, and I thank him for caring about all the details. Even if I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked, I celebrate whatever I got done and I thank God for never leaving my side.
Involving God in all those details chases the fog of anxiety away. It also helps me when the next busy day begins. I remember how faithful God was to me the day before, and I trust him to help me again.
If anxiety is threatening to destroy your peace this holiday season, I encourage you to use your anxious moments as prayer triggers. Focus on the immediate path ahead of you and thank God for his faithfulness. The Prince of Peace will be your companion in these busy days, and you’ll never feel alone!
Questions for you:
- How does thanking God help you chase away anxiety?
- What time management system helps you gain peace?
- In what area do you need God’s strength the most this holiday season?
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