In days of uncertainty, like we are experiencing right now with the pandemic, the desire to control and “get on with life” can become overwhelming. Our brains like certainty. Right now, life is anything but certain. If you are like me, you are longing for some “normalcy”, whatever that might be. What can we do to focus and regain a sense of peace?
In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul was writing encouragement to them from a jail cell. He was certainly sheltered in place and not in control! He writes to encourage them, since they have been such an encouragement to him. What an example he is to us! He wants them (and us) to know the joy that he knows, in spite of circumstances.
He writes to them:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious
—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.
Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies and grant you peace. Philippians 4:8 The Msg
How do you follow Paul’s recommendations, regardless of these uncertain times?
A. Choose your focus
Paul gives you a whole list of things that you can focus upon when things are uncertain. None of us have experienced a pandemic before. We have this desire to be in control. Being in control is not on the list of things to focus upon.
Paul starts his list of things to do by filling your minds and meditating. Meditating in prayer is choosing to sit with God and listening to what He may want to say to you in a quiet moment.
Paul says those things to focus on are:
What in your life currently could be listed under each of those headings? Take a sheet of paper and brainstorm items under each heading. Ask God to help bring things to mind. This could be your focus of prayer over the entire time of shelter in place. You could add to it in the days ahead.
I was thinking this morning about things in my life that are true, authentic and compelling. On my list was God is with me. He is guiding my path. I have a lovely home to live in. I have my health. I can talk to God and pour out my emotions, thoughts and reactions to Him. I can meet with family online. Although some of these things may not be exactly how I want them to be, they are authentic and real and keep me focused on the positive.
By bringing to mind these positive things, your brain gets attached to the positives in your life and you actually develop new brain synapses and connections as you develop this list.
B. Put your focus into practice
Paul writes to put your focus into practice in very concrete ways. I find it fascinating how God illuminated opposites for him, which we now know is good healthy brain science.
He writes to focus upon:
- the best, not the worst;
- the beautiful, not the ugly;
- things to praise, not things to curse
Again, what practices in your life fall under the best that is going on? The best is what you’ll want to carry forward in the days ahead. What will those practices be?
What things are you noticing that are truly beautiful in these uncertain times? For me, I realize that developing a routine is comforting. It brings a rhythm to my life that was missing before. I plan to keep more of that rhythm when things open back up.
What can you truly praise right now? More time with family? Or time for projects? Or it can be a really stressful time, I realize and you’re having a hard time finding things to praise. Perhaps you can praise Him for your own health, or work, or simply that you know He sees you and knows your situation.
I am finding beauty in moments of conversation online with family, like the two and a half year old granddaughter who says, “I can’t see!” as she moves closer and closer to the computer screen, wanting to see all the family members faces. Or the regular conversations I am having weekly with girlfriends over a cup of tea to check in and see how each other is doing. And the reading of books online with my five year old grandson as I discovered I could put Kindle Reader on my laptop and share the screen with him on Zoom so he could see the book I wanted to share with him.
Whatever it is for the best, the beauty or for praise, He promises to be near, regardless of the circumstances. He wants you to tell Him everything.
C. Notice what happens
When you practice focusing on the true and authentic, letting go of the worry and control, what happens to your emotions, thoughts and body reactions?
When you put into place ways to look at the best, the beautiful and things to praise, how does your day change?
Hopefully, you begin to notice more hope, more peace, more calm. It is not the circumstances that change, but God’s strength, power and presence that enable you to be present now and trusting Him. Building those trust muscles and how you focus your intentions change how you can view your circumstances.
It doesn’t mean you won’t still lose some sleep. I was awake in the middle of the night, processing some of the things that had happened on the news. The idea of six more weeks of shelter in place is heavy, yet talking things over with God helps put my focus back in perspective. I have ways to process what is going on in the world around me and regain my peace with God..
Focus is challenging in these days of uncertainty. Some days it will be easier to focus on the best, beautiful, true and authentic around you than others. He will be there no matter what.
Christ is for you. He walks beside you, before you, behind you, above you, below you and most importantly in you as you make this journey during these uncertain times.
May you find His peace and hope. If you would like someone to help you walk this journey right now, especially when focus may be challenging, that is what I do as a spiritual director.
I am here to help you notice where He is at work in your life. I would love to walk with you in these uncertain times. These times can be easier with a companion. Contact me and let’s create a safe space for you to experience God’s close presence.
Nancy Booth wants to create safe spaces for you, helping you find ways to have two-way conversations with God. She loves encouraging you to look for ways He is at work. Nancy is a spiritual director and writer. She would love to accompany you on your journey of discovery to hear and see more of the God who delights in you. Peace, hope and freedom could be yours Contact her today..