Last week we discussed finding peace in the midst of the pandemic lockdown. Are you feeling anxious and overwhelmed? Are your days filled with fear and worry? In prison, Paul wrote to the young church at Philippi, exhorting them to follow his remedy for anxiety, fear, and worry.
Philippians 4:4-7 (RSV)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
5 Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand.
6 Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The first step in Paul’s remedy for anxiety is to rejoice always (v. 4). He repeats himself to emphasize the importance of rejoicing in all circumstances in order to live a life free of anxiety. The ability to rejoice is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you to overflowing with these fruits.
It is possible to flourish in the midst of trying circumstances and the crushing weight of lockdowns, anxiety, fear, and stress. “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (Jas 1:2-3). Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount said that to be persecuted and insulted is a blessing, “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Mt 5:11-12). Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4:4-7) exudes joy. The spirit of gladness dominates the tone of his letter even though he was writing from prison while in chains. That is Spirit-filled living!
The next step in Paul’s remedy for anxiety is to let your gentleness (kindness) be evident to all (v. 5). When you are filled with the joy of Lord, your attitude towards others is transformed. If you are filled with the love of Christ, it is possible to show kindness to everyone and in every circumstance, even your family members during this time of lockdown. Prayer and scripture reading transform your heart and mind to that of Christ. Through His grace, you can love others as He loves them. Christian living not only transforms you but also transforms relationships. Give your heart to God and let His love flow through you as kindness to others, especially to those closest to you in this time of isolation.
The third step in Paul’s remedy for anxiety is to ask God in prayer for everything you need with thanksgiving (v. 6). The result of your earnest prayers and petitions is that you will have the peace of God, keeping your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (v. 7). The peace of God is the tranquility of heart and soul that comes from Christ: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (Jn 14:27). Keeping your heart and mind in Christ, God will guard you from anxiety, fear and despair that weaken your confidence in His fatherly care: “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you” (1 Pt 5:7). Jesus gives similar instructions to not worry, again from His Sermon on the Mount discourse:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:25-34
Rejoice always, let your gentleness be evident to all, do not be anxious but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Then the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Praise be to God!
Please say an extra prayer for those who are struggling with anxiety, depression, or any mental illness, which is so rampant in our world today in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prayer to Saint Dymphna
Patron Saint of Anxiety and Mental Illness
Everyone has a cross to bear, some harder than others. Smile and be kind to everyone you meet. Be a friend to that someone who is alone or could use a friend. Pray for them every day and make an effort to let them know that they are loved unconditionally.
Below is the prayer to Saint Dymphna, the patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions:
Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore thy powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need (mention it). Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.
(Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be.)
Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us