Because of strained family relationships, for some of you holidays are not pleasant times, but events weighed with the tension of trying to avoid confrontations. Arguments can erupt, opinions clash, and understanding is elusive. Ironic how some must endure--what should be the most joyous time of the year--holidays with people they like to be around the least.
Fortunately for us, we are blessed with great family. But sadly, that is not the case for most. So, if you are struggling to see Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas as times to look forward to and are just "trying to get through," let me encourage you with some words from Scripture.
Philippians 4:6-7: "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 minds in Christ Jesus."
The Message puts it this way: "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."
In false perception, I used to think that if I offered everything up to God in prayer, that peace would come because He would modify the circumstances that were causing the anxiety. That rarely happens. It's not about the circumstance. The peace of God comes when our minds are focused on Him and not that which is perpetuating our fear or anger. He whose mind is fixed on Him will be kept in perfect peace.
Imagine yourself in a battle scene--Lord of the Rings perhaps. You are surrounded by evil, evil that wants to make you miserable, destroy your joy, take your very life. Feeling overwhelmed with anxiety is an understatement. You hardly know what to do. You pray, but you feel no different. The Orcs are closing in on you, laughing, taunting you with swords. You continue praying, but you turn yours eyes toward your Commander, the King of the warriors. His might is unmatched, his skill incomprehensible. No worry etches his brow. He is not afraid. You do not doubt that he is more than capable of protecting you. And instead of glancing back at all the evil, you keep your vision focused in His direction. Our perspectives change and our fears will calm when we keep our eyes fixed on our warrior.
Through the anxiety of strained relationships, unpleasant confrontations, and misunderstanding people, remember that there is one who "gets you," loves you fully, and desires to be near. When you feel yourself overcome with anxious thoughts, turn your eyes toward our Ultimate Warrior, our Lord. May His peace guard your hearts and minds.