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Posts Tagged ‘Relieving Anxiety’

It was 5 a.m. and dark outside when I left home for my daily walk one morning. It was cold and windy, but I was clothed warmly for the five-mile trek along a route that included a steep stretch of road into the hills above our neighborhood of Granada Hills, one of the towns in the San Fernando Valley, just outside Los Angeles.

I was eager to walk that morning, for I was deeply troubled about my life and needed to work off a lot of pent-up frustration. But even more importantly, I needed the time of solitude and privacy along those deserted and darkened roads to pray and seek God’s help and direction.

As I walked I poured out my frustrations to God. I told him how burdened and beaten down I felt, and how I had lost the passion, dream, and direction for my life.

Then somewhere along the walk, amidst my tears, weariness, self-pity, and complaints, the Lord reminded me of some verses from Isaiah 40, the words seemingly rushing back into my consciousness with each step that I took:

Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall fall exhausted,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:27-31, New King James Version—NKJV)

I mulled those words over in my mind, especially, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

A scene from the past flashed in my mind, one that I had seen many times from our church which sits atop one of the ridges of the Santa Monica Mountains, overlooking the San Fernando Valley.

It was a scene of a high-flying bird—sometimes an eagle, sometimes a hawk—hovering or slowly gliding majestically above the slopes. Its wings would always be spread wide, almost motionless, as it circled above unhurriedly under the California sun, as if waiting patiently for something. Inevitably it would connect with that something—an unseen thermal draft—its outstretched wings catching the full force of the swift-rising column of hot air that would send it soaring effortlessly to greater heights with hardly a flap of its wings and no wasted energy.

As I walked up the steep hill in the dark that morning, I closed my eyes, spread out my arms eagle-like, and tried to imagine what it would be like to wait for those thermal drafts and soar like an eagle. The cold wind blew steadily on my face, chest, and outstretched arms, and I began to feel as if I were being lifted gently off the ground and borne aloft by the wind.

Though my feet continued to pound the ground in a steady walk up the hill, my imagination took me to another realm where I seemingly experienced the sensation of flying like an eagle high above the San Fernando Valley, with the city lights shimmering and sparkling below and the dawn’s faint light gently washing the eastern sky. I felt as if I were hovering in the wind, gliding, waiting, and then soaring as a thermal draft swept me upwards and effortlessly to higher levels of flight above the valley.

The sensation of flight was wonderful and thrilling, sending shivers through my body. But an even deeper sensation followed—an overwhelming sense of God’s presence and a feeling of total well-being. This was God’s touch of grace, his moment of blessing for one who was poor in spirit, and one who mourned (Matthew 5:3-4).

Later that day and in the following days as I thought about that transcendent experience, God communicated clearly and profoundly through various scripture passages how to reinvigorate our lives as Christian believers:

· Never give up and quit.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed or broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, New Living Translation—NLT)

· Wait patiently for God and he will restore our flagging strength and spirit.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. (Psalm 37:7, NLT)

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3, NLT)

· Trust God completely to do what he promises in his Word.

…those who trust the Lord will possess the land. (Psalm 37:9b, NLT)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NLT)

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. (I Peter 5:6-7, NLT)

· Rest quietly in him.

The Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says, “Only in returning to me and waiting for me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15, NLT)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)

· The Holy Spirit’s presence and will are to us what the thermal air currents are to the eagle or hawk.

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31, NKJV)

I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your law is written on my heart. (Psalm 40:8, NLT)

Always be joyful. Keep praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-19, NLT)

I’ve never been able to recapture that sensation of flying, but the lessons learned through that experience and those scripture passages have stayed with me, especially whenever I see one of those majestic creatures soaring over the slopes of our San Fernando Valley.

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Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, sometimes we find ourselves tired, discouraged, and utterly burnt out on life. Thank you for assuring us through your holy Word that if we wait patiently on you and seek your guidance, you will renew our strength, reinvigorate our flagging spirits, restore us to our rightful minds, and empower us to soar to greater heights of living and serving. Teach us to wait patiently, for it is in quiet waiting that we experience you in your fullness and transforming power. Amen.

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Several years ago, beginning in January of each year, a hummingbird built her nests and nurtured her young in the branches of a potted ficus plant on the sundeck outside our family’s dining room window.

I first saw her when she started building a nest in the front of our house, just outside the window of my study. I felt very honored that she trusted me enough to build her nest just inches away from my window. I was always aware of her presence as she sat on her eggs and quietly watched me work at my computer.

But during one February night that first year, a fierce thunderstorm blew in and deluged the San Fernando Valley region of Southern California where we live. The next morning I went outside and found that the wind and rain had snapped many branches off the trees in our garden and dashed her nest and eggs to the ground.  I felt sorry for my feathered friend and wondered what became of her.  Did she survive? Was it too late for her to rebuild her nest and lay her eggs again?

My answer came the following year. As the rainy season approached in January, I discovered her building a nest in the ficus plant at the back of our house, about two feet from our dining room window. This time she chose her nesting area well, for the ficus sat in a large pot under the eve of our roof overlooking the sundeck, sheltered very nicely from the rain, hail, wind, and the sun.

We watched as, over the weeks, she built her nest, laid her eggs, warmed her chicks, and nurtured them. She watched us as we ate our meals, cleaned up our dishes, had our family times around the dining room table, and let our cat out into the backyard. We watched as her chicks grew, exercised their wings, got too big for their nest, and finally took flight, leaving the nest.

For three years I enjoyed her company each season and, with each empty nest, wondered how she and her offspring would fare over the coming year. Would the young ones make it?  Would she return next year? Were they among the many hummingbirds that drank from our backyard feeder throughout the year?

I felt a very strong affection for her and her family, and I sensed that in some strange way a very special bond had developed between her and our family—a bond that brought her back again and again.

Most of all, she and the many other feathered species that graced us with their presence and songs each day were vivid reminders to me to live each day without anxiety.

For there were times whenever I began to feel anxious and worry about things in life—like money, work, bills, relationships, the future—her chirps or her silent presence would remind me of Jesus when he said:

Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes.  For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and wear.

Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O you of little faith?

So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.

So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time. (Matthew 6: 25-34. The Living Bible)

I have found great comfort in those words—especially when my fears and brooding imagination threaten to overwhelm me. There have been many mornings when my fear of facing the day has been quieted and stilled by the sight of birds in our garden and the memory of my special feathered friend who tended her young during those years. They remind me of a heavenly Father who loves and cares for us and promises to take care of not only our tomorrows but also our todays.

So, dear friend, the next time you begin to feel anxious and worry, look at the birds and learn a simple but profound lesson from your heavenly Father on how to live each day without anxiety.

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