I am an excellent worrier. If worrying were an Olympic Sport, I would stand on the top podium with the Star-Spangled Banner playing in my honor. I have molded this affliction into a 35-year career in the insurance world. My primary responsibilities are to point out the potential for things to go wrong and how the proper insurance coverage can soften the blow if, heaven forbid, the aforementioned catastrophic event was to occur. Then I must convince the customer to trust my pessimism, which is usually based on past realities, and buy the recommended coverages. This is hurdle number one. Next, if the hypothetical, terrible event becomes a reality, I must climb the giant wall of having the insurance company keep the promise of their policy, which is to pay for everything associated with the catastrophe, in a timely manner. This sits in my mind like a 500-pound gorilla until it is done. Then comes the satisfaction of helping the client mixed with the disappointment of knowing that the insurance only threw money at the problem. The loss and pain of the event often leave scars that don’t fully heal.
Max Lucado states that fear is a response to things that are present; anxiety is the worry over things that could potentially happen but are not present. Forbes magazine, in their April 28, 2023 edition, reported that 42.5 million suffer from significant levels of clinical anxiety. This is the type of anxiety that can be an overwhelming paranoia that interferes with emotional, social, or occupational functioning. After seeing this statistic, my description of my worry/anxiety prowess may be a little overstated. However, anxiety is something that impacts each of us.
As I look at the circumstances in my own life and in the lives of those around me, the Lord brings to my mind Philippians 4:4 where the apostle Paul urges Christ-followers to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice”. Are you kidding me? I could buy into “sometimes”, “often”, or even “most of the time”, but “ALWAYS rejoice”? In John 16:33, Jesus promises that we will have troubles. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus himself begged God to take from Him the cup of the whole world’s troubles that He was about to drink. I think that Paul is commanding the impossible.
Then the Holy Spirit brings to my mind that the guy writing these ordained words had circumstances a whole lot more difficult than mine. Isolation, church politics, many forms of torture, imprisonment, sleep deprivation, and starvation highlight many of the everyday problems Paul faced (See 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
After chewing on this verse a little longer, I actually read what it says. “Rejoice in the Lord. I will say it again: Rejoice!” My focus is all wrong. My focus is on my circumstances and not on the One that loves me enough to die for me and pursue a relationship with me. God is not asking me to rejoice in painful experiences but to rejoice in HIM. Matthew 6:33 comes to mind, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The rest of John 16:33 where Jesus says we will have trouble tells me: “Take heart because I have overcome the world”. Jesus understood in the Gethsemane that it was God’s will that was the priority.
I ask that you join me in praying that our focus is not on ourselves, our comfort, or our safety. Pray that our focus is on the Lord. When we fix our eyes on Him, we cannot help but rejoice because we can clearly see who He is and how worthy He is to be celebrated.