Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:4-7 ESV
Considering all that is going on in the world right now, I thought it might be helpful to shift our focus to how God calls us to manage anxiety in the midst of a pandemic. Fear impacts the way we respond to each other, so fear impacts our marriages. When our hearts are gripped by panic or anxiety, it pushes everything else aside, and brings our distress to the forefront—of our minds, of our behavior, of our responses. We struggle to think about anything else, we struggle to make wise decisions, we struggle to care for each other. And when our spouses don’t immediately respond to our fears with the same level of alarm, we grow angry and resentful. It is imperative to a successful marriage that we each learn to manage our own anxieties—our spouses can support us, but it is up to us to manage our fears.
These verses clearly and powerfully speak to the person who struggles with anxiousness. Anxiety puts a horrible stress on our bodies when we don’t manage it properly—many people struggle with weight, heart, or digestive issues as a result of stress; or they suffer from stress-induced chronic issues like joint and muscle pain, neck or back pain; or they struggle with mental health issues like panic attacks or other anxiety disorders. The list of stress-induced illnesses is endless, and I would guess the majority of us have been medically treated for a condition caused by stress or we are close to someone who has. We live in a world that pushes us toward a life of anxiousness. It’s difficult to avoid. But we were never meant to live with the stress we allow in our lives—we weren’t created to physically endure the stress. God tells us over and over to not worry or to not be anxious in Scripture because He knows the damage it will cause.
The beautiful part of His Word to us is that He doesn’t just tell us not to worry, he gives us specific instructions for how to live a life without the stress. If you’re struggling with the effects of stress in your life—physically or emotionally—lean and listen to the wisdom that exists in this passage. It can change your life, and it can change the way you relate to your spouse.
The verse starts with “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” The first instruction to us when we’re struggling with anxiety is so important that He says it twice in one sentence—rejoice. Since it seems to be super important to extinguishing the stress on our lives, we need to be sure we have a solid understanding of the word rejoice. Rejoice is an action word related to joy. It means to make joyful or to delight. You have to do it—rejoice is not a passive word. You have to choose to be joyful. As we’ve learned, the dictionary defines joy as an emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something else, but we need to understand that joy is more than just an experience or an emotion. Joy is the supernatural delight in the person of God, the purposes of God, and the people of God. True joy is supernatural—you can’t come up with it on your own. Joy comes from God, but the delight part is all you. To delight is an action or a choice to see the good in everything.
So what do we rejoice in? First, we are to rejoice in the person of God; we are to rejoice in who He is. God is all seeing, all knowing, all powerful, but He also loves us deeply with a steadfast pursuing love, He comforts and cares for us in our deepest sorrows—holding us in the palm of His hand and keeping every tear we cry, and He is our protection in the storm. He promises never to leave us or forsake us, He is our Father, our Teacher, our Savior. He created this big, beautiful universe and everything in it, from the stars to the oceans, from the planets to the mountains. And that is just a small sample of who He is.
If you are struggling to see who God is in your trial, in this pandemic, or in your marriage, sit down and open His Word and allow Him to overwhelm you with who He is. He will draw you to a place of rejoicing. How often do you and your spouse pause to ponder the greatness of our God? Set aside your fears for a moment, and speak of God’s incredible creation. If you struggle, get outside and take a walk with your spouse and admire the beauty of His creation by only discussing the splendor of the world around you. Nothing diminishes stress like getting out into nature and recognizing God’s amazing design.
We are to rejoice in the purposes of God—we delight in what He is doing, not because He always lavishes us with everything we want, but because He is always at work for our good and His glory. Though we may struggle to see it in the moment, He is transforming our character and growing us in our likeness of His Son. He is softening us and growing us in our compassion and our ability to love our spouses with the sacrificial kind of love we were designed to give. God can use the brokenness in our lives and in this world as part of His plan to change us. We are to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials because we know that He is at work, transforming and growing the people of God into compassionate people who can see past their own struggles. When you are overwhelmed with fear, pause a moment and rejoice in how He has worked in your life. Be intentional about focusing your conversation on the blessings He has bestowed on you over the trials you’ve endured as a couple. Speak of all that God has done in your lives and your marriage. If you don’t have any stories, then sit down with a couple who does have those stories and listen.
Finally, we are to rejoice in the people of God. The world would have us focus on all the negativity in this world. You only need to turn on the news or scroll through Facebook to see the evil of many, but God is at work out there and the evidence is overwhelming at times. Look for the helpers in this pandemic. Look for the glimpses of God in the people—they exist. Even in this global crisis, God is at work in the people of God and He is doing some amazing things. Any time you see goodness displayed in humanity, any time you see sacrificial love demonstrated in people, you can know it is God at work. We are not inherently a sacrificial people; we are inherently a self-centered people. You don’t need to teach a toddler how to serve themselves first, they come out knowing how to do that. But God is at work in His people. When the evil of the world seems to swell up around you, be intentional about celebrating the goodness in the people of God with your spouse. Choose to find and celebrate those stories. Look for the people He has placed in your life as a blessing, and rejoice in those relationships together.
The first step in battling the anxiety that would overwhelm us is to rejoice. Go and find the joy that He has placed in your life and celebrate it with your spouse. Get your eyes off the struggles that cause the stress, and fix them on the reasons He has given you to rejoice.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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