In the first devotional of the season, the encouragement was to rejoice in the Lord by recognizing that God always gives and we can share what God gives us with our community.
So, why don't we do that?
If I'm an encourager, why wouldn't I encourage my teammates? If God has given me leadership ability, why wouldn't I work hard and ask others to join me? If I'm a teacher, why wouldn't I take time to work through the flaw in someone's forehand with them? If I'm a listener, why wouldn't I seek to hear out the player who is worried about their position?
What would keep you from using your gift: __________________________
The Word: Merimnao
In Philippians 4, Paul says to rejoice in the Lord. Then he goes on to say what might steal that joy. Verse 6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
What steals joy from us? What keeps us from participating in the receiving and giving that God instigates within our communities? Being anxious.
The word anxious is the Greek word merimnate, which is a form of merimnao. The word means anxiety that disrupts a tranquil state of mind or that disturbs the personality. Think about that for a second. This is really talking about anything that distracts, disrupts, or disturbs you from being the person God created. Anything that prevents you from using the gift God has given you.
For us humans, these things that disrupt, disturb and make us anxious are often different inhibiting emotions. Things like fear, anger, shame, despair, or deceit. We don't use our gifts from God when we are afraid of what people might think of us. We don't use our gifts from God when we are angry at our circumstances or other people. We don't use our gifts from God when we are ashamed or feel like we're not good enough, that our gifts aren't good enough. We don't use our gifts is we are in despair and feel like there's no point. We don't use our gifts if we are deceived into thinking that there is no gift, no God, no use.
We might call these things that induce merimnao wounds. Fear. Anger. Shame. Despair. Deceit. These cause anxiety. These are our wounds.
Our wounds do all sorts of damage to our joy. Our wounds try to convince us that there is distance between us and God. That God can't possibly still love us. That God is irreparably angry with us. That God is very far away from us. That God isn't there at all. Ever since evil entered the world, these wounds have tugged and torn at our relationship with God. They create anxiety, disrupt our tranquil thoughts, and cause us to doubt.
Notice that Paul doesn't dispute the fact that these anxieties, these merimnao wounds, are going to happen. Instead, he offers three solutions. One solution is theological. One is practical. One is about the attitude we choose.
Theologically, he reminds us that the distance between us and God is a lie. It's a lie! There is no distance between us and God because Christ closed any gap that could have ever been there. God is not far away. "The Lord is near." There is nowhere that we can go that this is not true. And if God is near, then our healing is near. God has always been trying to remind us of this ever important reality. Even in the Old Testament, when he gives Moses his name it is YHWH, an unpronouncable sound that sounds like an inhale and exhale. A breath. A reminder that God is the one who is as close as your next breath!
And this same God that is close is the one who is giving, loving, and an ever-present source of good.
The practical solution flows from the reminder of God's nearness. "In every situation, by prayer and petition . . . present your requests to God." When a wound takes hold of you, take it to the God that is close. When we are afraid of what people think, release that to God. When we are angry, at ourselves or others, release that to God. Pray. Petition. Open your hands up and let God do God's work. With that next breath, let it be a prayer giving your merimnao wound over to Jesus the healer.
And finally, the attitude. "With thanksgiving." God's goodness is evident all around us. In the smell of morning coffee, in the sunrise over the cornfields, in the breeze that cools our sweat, the cloud that hides the sun when we're serving :-) We live through those gifts with a lot of coldness and disinterest. Instead, let us live with gratitude. With thanksgiving.
We could say Paul's message this way:
"Our good God is as close as your next breath. Every breath in is gratitude, every breath out is fear."
The Song: "The Last Word is Rejoice" by Mineral
The song today addresses the question: How can I? In many ways it is an artist confronting their merimnao. Working through their wound. But the answer is in the title. The last word is rejoice!