Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.
Has anyone ever told you to breathe? Probably. I’ve been told to breathe multiple times, and the moment someone says it – the moment someone even utters the word breathe it’s all I can think about. I’m suddenly conscious of my lungs pumping air. Something that was completely natural has suddenly moved into my consciousness. I feel control over whether or not my body is getting the air necessary for survival, and that control causes me to concentrate harder and harder until – oh look, a puppy. Or maybe not a puppy. Maybe what I’m noticing is that it’s 4:00 and I have to head to work. Maybe a friend just texted me. Regardless of what that thing is, do you know what happens? I keep breathing. There’s some biological explanation about how breathing is an involuntary reaction, but the point is it is not in my conscious control. Sure, I can choose to hold my breath, but even then one of two things will happen: I’ll give up or I’ll pass out, and then I’ll start breathing again.
When I think about the relationship between being anxious and having peace, I think about breathing and I think about waiting. I’m waiting right now, on graduate school decisions. In my mind my whole future is at risk, and so I check forums more than once a day for updates. I refresh my email constantly. I practice how I’ll respond to rejections and acceptances, and I have dreams of my computer mailbox lighting up to let me know an answer has arrived. Only in my dream my vision goes blurry, and I can’t see if it’s a rejection or an acceptance. The fact, though, is that my pressing “refresh” doesn’t actually do anything. The decisions aren’t going to come faster because I logged into my email thirty times today. What I do get out of it is the anxiety of a false sense of control. I can make it happen! Even though now that I’ve done my homework and submitted my apps the process is entirely out of my hands.
In a way, being anxious is tied to controlling things that aren’t ours to dictate and peace comes with the knowledge that we can’t. I think that’s why the instruction for not being anxious is to make your requests known with prayer and petition and thanksgiving. It’s a handover. Person (that’s me!) with prayer and petition and thanksgiving gives the stressor (that’s grad school results) over to God. The only one who is in control anyway. This is my recognition of my utter inability to do anything in the situation now that all my files have been submitted. He takes it on, like he takes on every sorrow, every pain, every stressful situation that we deal with. And because he’s a God of peace that’s what he leaves us – peace that doesn’t seem to fit the situation.
Like breathing. There are things in life that aren’t aided by our micromanaging of them. They were constructed to work on their own, and they continue to work when we aren’t actively watching over them. But God does. He’s actively watching and moving the pieces in place that need to be moved, and he’s opening and closing doors that need to be closed. Let him work and accept his peace.
Contributor Ebony Taylor