Still {Advent: December 6}

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;

From where shall my help come?

 My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.

 He will not allow your foot to slip;

He who keeps you will not slumber.

 Behold, He who keeps Israel

Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;

The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

 The sun will not smite you by day,

Nor the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all evil;

He will keep your soul.

 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in

From this time forth and forever. – Psalm 121:1-8

God never sleeps nor slumbers. You’re approaching the Christmas season with tasks still to finish, gifts still to purchase, papers still to finish, exams still to take, promotions still to obtain, healing still to take place, and prayers still not answered.

Still.

This word is usually expresses it out of frustration or anxiousness:

“You still haven’t studied for that test?”

“Sit still, and be quiet.”

Christmastime is not usually associated with stillness. Lots of parties, loud music everywhere, and lengthy car rides home thanks to traffic on the road. However, even in the chaos that comes with the season, we can learn to be still. Even when we have a long list of things to get done or when we are waiting to hear from God, we can still ourselves and lessen our anxiety.

How do you do this? Well, here are some ideas.

1. Acknowledge that anxiety is not innately a sin. Oh boy. This idea is often handed over to lengthy debates because people confuse anxiety with worry. While they can be synonymous, anxiety does not necessarily come from worry nor worry from anxiety. A person can experience anxiety without the presence of worry, and he or she can be worried about something without having anxiety. Anxiety itself is a constant angst for something to get done and an uneasiness until that something is completed. So, take your Christmas party list, for example. You still have a lot to do. The house needs cleaned, groceries purchased, food cooked, and reminder messages sent. Until you get all of this done, you might experience a sense of uneasiness. You just want everything to get done so that you and your guests can have a good time.

2. Admit that you are not responsible for someone else’s emotional baggage. Yes, I know that the Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens, but that is not what I’m referring to here. I’m talking about when you hop onto someone else’s emotional roller coaster and allow every twist and turn to anger you. You can stop that, and you need to. When someone starts pulling you into their emotional drama, in your mind (not out loud), say to that person, “No, actually, I didn’t buy a ticket to your emotional roller coaster, and I’m not about to get on it. You go on right ahead.”

3. Accept the fact that you can’t fix or change someone. You heard me. You can’t fix someone, and you’re not meant to. You have to let people be who they are even if you can’t stand how they act or don’t agree with the decisions they make. If you catch yourself trying to fix someone, remind yourself that you have too much to fix in your life that you don’t have time trying to worry about someone else. You can’t change someone, but you can love them for who they are.

4. Ask your counselor about ways to manage your anxiety. Everyone can benefit from counseling, and a therapist can help you sort through the anxiety. He or she might recommend a visit to a psychiatrist to see if a small dose of medication might help you if your anxiety is just too much to handle. It just depends on what you and your counselor feel is best for you.

5. Acquire emotional boundaries. You need to establish healthy boundaries for yourself. You don’t have to announce them to people, but you can make a mental note of the things that you will and will not let bother you. When a situation occurs in which you are easily bothered, notice the point of anxiety and declare to yourself that you choose not to let it bother you. Then start thinking about what you enjoy. Speaking of…

6. Avail yourself to that which calms you. What do you enjoy? What thoughts make you less anxious? Think about those things. Spend time doing what you enjoy and make time for it daily.

7. Anticipate and abide in the presence of the Lord, and remember that God never sleeps not slumbers. Think of a hot summer day at the beach. You’ve been out deep sea fishing all morning and now you’re ready to relax. It’s hot, and all you can think about is jumping in the pool when you get back to the resort. You get back and go straight to the pool deck. There’s a family to your left eating sandwiches, there’s a group of college kids to your right trying to take the perfect selfie, and there are some kids squealing as they learn how to swim. You slip off your flip flops and place your stuff in the chair. You walk to the edge of the deep end, take a deep breath and…

Water splashing below, above, and around you, you feel the coolness of the depths paired with the warmth of the surface of the water. Voices are subdued, and for a moment, the world is still. No longer are you sweltering in the heat, for the water has washed over you. Hold onto that feeling.

You might feel that the Lord has forgotten about you, and you may not see how you will ever be free from your anxiety or that which troubles you, but don’t let go of the hope that we have because of Christ. Hold fast and avail yourself to that which makes you blossom. Anticipate the presence of the Lord in this way. Abide in the presence of the Lord, for even when you cannot feel his presence, he is with you…still.

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