Devotion #65

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

How do we get on top of anxious feelings? According to Paul, we let our reasonableness be known to everyone. Would the people in your life describe you as reasonable? What about your spouse? And what does your ability to be reasonable have to do with your anxiety?

To be able to truthfully answer that question, we need to fully understand the meaning of the word reasonable. By dictionary definition, reasonable means to be ‘agreeable to sound judgment or logic.’ In contrast, someone is unreasonable when their emotions are escalated, when they are demanding, or when they do not respond to sound judgment. An unreasonable person has high expectations, is easily offended, and doesn’t compromise well. Their way is the right way, and they seem unable to see things from another perspective.  

Resist the temptation to think about your spouse when you read the description of an unreasonable person. Our tendency is to defend our own reasonableness. In fact, many of us will pull out a catalog from the files of our minds to defend our reasonableness and their unreasonableness. Stop yourself! When we read convicting scripture and think of someone else, we must stop ourselves. God means these verses for us. This scripture should prompt you to only think about your reasonableness. Think about the times in your life where you have thought or said, “I deserve”, “I have the right”, “It’s not fair”, “Listen to me”, or “I will not.” A reasonable mind is a peaceful mind, one who is content and willing to listen to others. A reasonable mind compromises and puts other needs or preferences first when making decisions. They yield to better information in a discussion because they are good listeners. Someone who is reasonable listens more than talks, considers other points of view, and remains calm in all circumstances. 

When you look to other translations of Scripture, you see reasonableness can be translated as gentleness as well. Gentleness amps up reasonableness, doesn’t it? Asking that question again – would your spouse describe you as gentle? The opposite of a gentle spirit would be combative, harsh, critical, blunt. These are the people that stir the pot; gentle people still the storm. A reasonable or gentle person is after peace in relationships. They’re not after a false sense of peace by avoiding conflict, but rather the gentle kind of peace that comes from resolving conflict peacefully. A gentle attitude is considerate, unassuming, not pushy or demanding; it is not unnecessarily rigorous. 

Paul says we should be known for our reasonableness or our gentleness—to everyone in our lives. That includes our children, our parents, our sisters, our co-workers, the cashier at the drug store, the person who just cut us off in traffic, our Facebook audience, the Comcast employee on the telephone, and our spouses. Everyone. But how does being reasonable or gentle impact our anxiety? Why did Paul put these in the same passage? Consider how much unrest and conflict flows from stubbornly, unreasonably insisting on your own way. When we have been offended, think about how much of our brain power and energy is devoted to those angry or hurtful thoughts. We fume over the wrong and we retell the story to anyone who will listen. We punish our spouses with harsh words or the silent treatment. Consider how much peace of mind we would have if we chose to yield our ways to our husbands, if we lowered our expectations and stopped looking for our wives to do things our way, if we chose to listen instead of speak.

So much of our anxiety comes from our unwillingness to be reasonable or gentle. We get stuck on things that HAVE to be “this” way to be good, and our blood pressure rises when our spouse insists on having it their way. What if you just let your expectations go and trusted that God is in charge? 

Far too often, my anxiety about a certain situation, driven by my fear that things may end badly, impacts my behavior and stirs up an unreasonable response. Then my anxiety spirals because I’ve created conflict where there shouldn’t be and tension in my relationship—all which could have been avoided if I just chose a gentle response. I’ve been working on my gentleness for years—one of the ways I’m intentionally trying to do that is by listening more than talking. I repeat James 1:19 in my head multiple times a day: Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. I find I am far less reasonable or gentle when I respond quickly to a situation. So, I’m learning to slow down. I’m trying to take the time to breathe and think before I respond, and my responses are considerably more reasonable. We all get those texts that inflame us, or we read a Facebook post that launches us into a tirade. Resist the urge to respond in the moment—put the phone down for 30 minutes and wait to respond. This is so hard for people like me. I am such a solution-oriented problem solver, so when I am confronted with a problem, I tend to immediately start dictating a response. Instead of speaking in these moments, I’m trying to listen more. I’ve found on any occasions the simple act of listening avoids conflict altogether.

It’s a work in process for me, but I’ve discovered our reasonableness and our gentleness are determined in the everyday, moment-by-moment decisions in our lives. It’s not typically the big moments of crisis when our reasonableness is tested—we can usually overcome the crisis and respond reasonably because we’re thinking more about our reaction. It’s in the little moment that we battle our urge to be unreasonable. We’re not pausing and thinking when our spouse comes home grumpy or doesn’t want to help out with bath time. You need a plan for these moments or you will fail—choose to listen for the first 5 or 10 minutes without saying a single word, pause and think about which expectations you need to surrender, read His Word every day, confess your sin and allow Him to move in your heart.

As I said, I still have so far to go in this area of my life, but I am so thankful that our God continues to grow me to be more reasonable and more gentle. As I take the time to reflect on the things I’ve said or done, as I think about why I say those things, as I take the time to meet with God and allow the Spirit to work in me, I feel my reasonableness grow. As I feel my reasonableness grow, I feel my anxiousness diminish. 

Press on ~ you are loved 💗

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