OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #284 Peace and Joy
While we were on PEI for
vacation this summer, friends of ours joined us and brought their motor boat.
One day while on a cruise of the river a loud buzzer warned that the engine was
overheating. As it turns out, a piece of seaweed had clogged the water intake.
Once we cleared it, the pump was free to do its work, and we were soon speeding
up the river once again.
It’s too bad we don’t have some
sort of internal warning like that buzzer to alert us that we are anxious and
fearful about something. Sometime in the middle of last week I realized that I
was not a good judge of my own emotional state, but rather had been stressing
about problems. In fact, I understood that I had been worried for some amount of
time, distressed even, and had not realized it. I wonder how often in the past
this has happened to me without realizing it....
In any case, perhaps it was in
response to thinking about this week’s verses, which I have often used to help
other people. Curiously, I was thinking about how to write about them for you,
when I needed to apply them for myself.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I
will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is
near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and
petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in
Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7*)
These verses rate highly on my
“everyone should know list” because they show us how to replace anxiety, stress
and fear with joy and peace. Rather than “chewing and stewing” like we so often
do, we can experience deep and genuine peace even though “the wheels are coming
off the cart,” as people like to say here. When we have real peace, we feel joy
and blessing instead of fear, and we can even pass it along to others instead of
being grumpy and grouchy with the people around us.
I have come to believe that a
lot of what we do when we’re afraid and anxious is about coping with our
distress, not about actually taking it away. We tend to do things to make
ourselves feel better, if only for a short time, but it doesn’t actually remove
the apprehension we feel.
Here we’re not talking about drugs and alcohol,
although lots of people certainly resort to these measures. How many times do we
turn to food, or a movie, or a cup of coffee because it feels good, and we need
a break? How often do we pour ourselves into work or a project, to cooking or
cleaning because it helps us forget our problems, at least for a little
What we have in these verses is
not about coping, but an actual remedy for our restlessness about the future. “
...by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” It
must seem silly to God when we won’t give Him the things that are too big for us
to carry. He is more than capable, and He is more than willing to lift the
burden for us.
The word “petition” implies
that we’re going to need to repeat the exercise of prayer. We are prone to worry
and so we must be prone to pray. Like weeds creeping in the garden, we need to
cut back worry with prayer.
“Thanksgiving” is important,
too. Do we believe God will help us? We can thank Him for it even before we see
the results because we know it is as good as done.
I have discovered I am a poor
judge of my own state, but that doesn’t matter so much. Once I understand that I
am agitated, I can take these things to the Lord, and I know that he will
replace my fear with His peace.
I hope this helps. Be on
OnFire is a biweekly letter on
faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published
Aug 20, 2012. Scripture taken from New International Version, 1984. To subscribe
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