Galatians 5:22- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking, and envying each other.
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace
Today I realized that peace is my most sought after fruit of the spirit. I can't help but wonder if you often desire peace as well... it seems like there is always something new to fret about.
I've mentioned in previous posts that I wrestle with anxiety. I have experienced panic attacks before and after tests, while I am driving, and in the middle of the night. Recently, someone I cared about passed away and now at night I sometimes wonder, "Will I wake up tomorrow?" or I think to myself, "What will it really be like if I die?" After the passing of my friend, I have caught my mind frequently drifting to Psalms 103 which basically states that people are here today and gone tomorrow. Even now as I write this, I am fighting uncomfortable feelings. I feel so powerless and hopeless when I think about the frailness of life. How can I possibly find peace? Our immediate response as Christians to a question like this is to “pray and read the Bible”. That is a good suggestion, however I've listed 3 extra steps below that have helped me.
1. Acceptance- My first step towards living a less stressed lifestyle has been to accept the fact that I simply cannot control everything that happens to me. I can't control what other people do. I can't control the economy. I can't control the weather. I can't even really control if I get sick or not. I can prevent it, but some of it is out of my control. This means that sometimes things will go wrong. Yet when things go on and I feel powerless I am able to remember that God is still good. He is able when I am not. For that reason, whatever happens, I am open to it.
2. Meditation & Exercise-I remember when yoga first really began to become popular. I was in middle school. My parents and members or our church were quick to condemn yoga as something along the lines of spiritualism or witch craft. While I certainly understand that some of the origins of the activity stem from ancient oriental religions, I’ve also discovered that yoga as a form of exercise can be extremely beneficial. Instead of emptying my mind or focusing on my own power, I am able to pair my yoga routine with thoughts of God and scripture. Another technique that I used to be skeptical of is meditation. Again, I was warned it was linked with Buddhism and things I don’t practice. This has not been my experience. Meditation has made me more aware of my body, my breathing, and my awareness. It has been a great tool before bed or to help me release negative emotion and pressure that builds in my chest. Meditation is a great partner to prayer. I believe that whatever we do, what matters most is our intention behind it. Meditation and yoga can be used with proper intentions to boost your health. Of course if you are too uncomfortable with the stigma that surrounds yoga, there are plenty of other healthy activities that you can integrate into your life. Figure skating, swimming, and hiking are just a few of my other favs.
3. Service- there is a reason the Bible is so heavily focused on loving God and loving others. Have you ever heard someone say they are, “Living for their kids?” This is just one example of how much our mindset about life changes when we are more worried about the well-being of those around us. Taking the time to get our focus off of our own problems and desires is good for us! When we decide to invest in what someone else needs, we in return naturally start feeling a little bit better ourselves! This is especially true of those of us in the United States. We are so incredibly privileged, yet we are so quick to forget it. Take a look around at how the rest of the world is living and you will soon see that despite all of your challenges, you have quite a few blessings as well! So much of my own anxiety has been rooted in over-thinking. When I have too much time on my hands to replay my own struggles over and over in my head, I start to go down a bad path. The next time you start to feel overly consumed by stress, I would encourage you to get out of your house and find a community service project. Volunteer at an animal shelter, food bank, or soup kitchen. Visit a nursing home and be-friend an elderly resident who no longer has family. You will be amazed at how you will feel!
Whatever you are going through, Jesus knows and he understands. He wants you to have peace. Sometimes he also wants you to reach out to other people for help. If you have tried the things I’ve listed above and still find yourself feeling worse and worse, it might be time to seek professional healthcare. Our minds are so important- they orchestrate our lives and our actions. It is okay to talk to someone you trust about your feelings. It is okay to reach out to a family counselor or therapist. In some cases it is even necessary to take medicine to assist with your moods. This is not a lack of faith, this is common sense. God can work through counselors and therapists to answer your prayers for peace. He is not ashamed of you if you seek medical help. He has given us medicine and knowledge of our bodies for a reason. There are people waiting and ready to help you find the peace you’ve always dreamed of but never thought possible.
For immediate mental health assistance please visit: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/immediate-help