You have a choice. You can be miserable, upset and full of angst or you can free yourself from the anxiety that is abundant in this world. If that is true, then why are so many of us miserable, upset and full of angst?
You would think we would do anything to stop the misery. Yet we often remain trapped in a cycle of upset for years that turns into decades. The same reason that the world has so many miserable traps is the same reason we do not have to remain in our pits. Volition, free will, is the reason we get trapped by misery or become set free.
The Garden of Gethsemane preaches this lesson most profoundly. Jesus used His human will to escape His misery even though it meant submitting to the cross. Being asked to take on the sins of the entire world was as miserable a circumstance as anyone has ever faced. Most of us have a limit to the evil in the world that we have to go through; but not Jesus. Personally, I will accept my own tragedies as compared with those of others I know. Jesus’ task was to take on all the misery each of us personally knows and multiply that by an infinite number--the number of evil acts from the creation of the world until the day that all things are made new. We can’t even imagine the reality of misery that Jesus was contemplating that evening He prayed in the garden. He was asked to focus on God’s will rather than His own will; He had to believe that God’s goodness was greater than the evil that weighed down His heart. This is what God asks of each one of us.
Anxiety is a gift to alert us to the dangers of this world. Chronic anxiety is a plague for the soul that sickens and weakens our spiritual resolution. That is why Paul wrote:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).
Paul is not saying don’t be startled when you see a snake. Your anxious feeling is legitimate and good as it alerts you to danger and helps you respond quickly. Paul is talking about that sense of misery, upset and anxiety about your daily life in this world. This world is full of circumstances that create anxiety. No one reading this devotional is free of anxiety-producing circumstances.
Yet, we Christians are instructed to let anxiety be a signal to pray. Jesus’ life demonstrated this instruction. When the time came for Him to move forward to the task He had been sent to earth to fulfill, He was plagued with anxiety in His body, mind and spirit just like us. His anxiety was so great that His body demonstrated an unusual reaction to extreme stress. He not only produced sweat but also sweat mingled with blood. His mind was focused on the seeming impossibility of the task before Him—taking on the whole world of sin. It made Him ask God for another way. It was His Spirit that saved Him from sinking into the angst of His reality. His Spirit connected deeply with God’s Spirit; and, though He could not see it for Himself, He trusted in God’s goodness. He set His will on doing God’s will and not His own.
He got up and walked purposely into ambush that led to the cross. The circumstances that He dreaded were not going to be alleviated; in fact, they would intensify exponentially in the coming hours. Jesus had a peace that passes understanding because He set His will on following God’s will. He prayed and petitioned and presented His request to God and with thanksgiving accepted God’s answer of “No.” This will holds the power to choose anxiety or peace. What will you choose today?