A December Devotional for the Anxious Heart
Do you have anxiety at this time year? A fear that you might disappoint people at Christmas?
Do you struggle with feeling like you didn’t do enough for others this calendar year? Me too.
I woke up the other day with some of these thoughts and an intense feeling of anxiety. I know in my mind and heart that I was not meant to carry this burden. I was able to release it and I hope this helps someone else who may struggle with those same thoughts at this time of year.
We can bring our anxiety to Jesus and leave it at his feet.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30
He didn’t come to this earth so we would feel anxiety each December in our attempt to get loved ones the “perfect” gift or feel like we had the “perfect year” accomplishing all our goals. When the negative thoughts come about not being enough, I can choose to follow them down the dark path or I can choose to remember truth.
Here is some truth to combat those negative thoughts:
There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. When our mind is filled with condemning thoughts, they are not from God.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1,2
Jesus came into this world so we could have abundant life. Not a life paralyzed by anxious thoughts.
In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
He also wants to pull us out of that dark place those thoughts want to keep us.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness."
Jesus wants us to experience the peace of the Holy Spirit in our minds and hearts.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27
When you are thinking about gift giving, think about what you can give to the Lord as you celebrate Jesus’s birthday and the gift God gave to all of us.. The greatest gift we can give in return is to surrender our lives to Jesus and receive His gift of eternal life.
I stopped my negative thoughts for a moment this morning and I contemplated my faith and my relationship with Jesus. I put things in perspective of eternity with the creator of the universe. I named the lie I was believing in my head and focused on the truth of who Jesus is.
Practical Steps for Relieving Anxiety
1. Deep Breathing
When I was a therapist this suggestion sometimes got a roll of the eyes because this advice often seems frivolous after discussing the negative thoughts and emotions you are dealing with. But deep breathing does something we need in order to be able to work on the thoughts.
God created our bodies with an awesome alarm system so that we can operate efficiently when we face danger and get out of harm’s way. When our brains trigger the "fight or flight" response hormones will shut off or slow down some of our systems so others work better in the crisis. Our breath quickens so we can take in more oxygen and our heart rate increases.
However, when we experience constant stress or our thoughts trigger this response, we end up staying in this fight or flight mode way too often and need to help your bodies back into rest mode.
Deep breathing is a great way to do this. As we take concentrated deep breaths in and out, we help our body get back to rest mode (homeostasis) and can then think more rationally about our responses to current stressors.
I usually start with breathing in through my nose for a count of 3 then out my nose for a count of 4. Then I increase that as I go and end with breathing in through my mouth for a count of 5 and out through my mouth with jaw relaxed for a count of 7. There is more you can add to this but that is for another blog. :)
After practicing some deep breathing, I then write out scripture and a list of a few things I’m thankful for. I want my mind focused on truth and then focused on gratitude. Writing these truths down takes my focus off of my negative thoughts and onto the paper. I then say it out loud.
The third thing I try to do when I’m experiencing these negative thoughts is give myself the grace I give others.
Let me repeat that. Give yourself the grace you give to others.
Most of the time the people I’m worried about disappointing at Christmas are those that love me the most. They don’t want me feeling like a failure because I didn’t get my idea of the perfect gift or we didn’t do all the magical things culture has told me moms should do during the holidays. We would not want these individuals to feel this way about our gifts so why do we put this burden and pressure on ourselves?
A Gift Giving Tip
What has helped me in the past when I’m stuck on what to give is to write down a few positive attributes I notice in that person. Write down why you are thankful for them. This simple note is a great gift you can give them on Christmas. It will last longer than a candle and be more meaningful.
If you do have someone in your life who is usually disappointed by gifts, that is not your burden to carry. When we are thoughtful of others and sincerely try to show that, we are doing our part. If those efforts are met with disapproval, that is not our issue and we need to pray for this person and let it go. Easier said than done but this is where the writing and focusing on the truth of the word of God come in. Keep going back to truth.
When you think about your year and feel worried about not doing enough for others, pray.
Pray for those around you, those you know who have suffered deep losses this year, those you don’t know. Pray for your community, your nation and your leaders. Pray that others would know the deep peace and joy God wants us to have by receiving the gift of eternal life and relationship with Jesus.
If it’s helpful, think of one meaningful thing you can do for someone else in the coming week or two and do that. Then pray about the next person you can serve or bless.
God wants us to live each day with him moment by moment.
Matthew 6:10 “Give us this day our daily bread”
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “ John 15:4
Often remaining in Christ is a continual going back to him and saying his word out loud or writing it down as we pray for His peace to fill us.
It is choosing to focus on truth and not disappointment, imagined or real.
I was able to get out of my anxious state this morning by choosing to write down these truths and verses. I took deep breaths as I wrote them down for you and chose to write this blog to use the very thing Satan wants to torment me with to encourage someone else.
I will probably have to read these verses again and take my anxious thoughts to Jesus in prayer again later today or tomorrow.
You know what? That’s just what he wants. That’s what Jesus came here for in the manger all those years ago and that’s what he died for. To know you and to set you free.
Psalm 42:11 “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God.”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17
As we celebrate Christmas and our year comes to a close, let’s focus on the freedom and peace He wants us to have. Focus on HIM being enough and the mercy and grace he freely gives you as you come to him with your anxious thoughts.
“In this world you will will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
My prayer for all of you reading this is this:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Merry Christmas. May it be perfectly imperfect and filled with grace.
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