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“Do not be anxious about anything…” Philippians 4:6

(Leia a versão em português aqui) 👈 Read the portuguese version here.

 “Do not be anxious about anything…” Philippians 4:6

Our spirit must be like a lake whose waters are always calm during all seasons of the year, and crystalline, to the point of masterfully reflecting all the light cast on it. But nowadays most people are, unconsciously, cultivating a spirit as turbid and turbulent as the waters of a raging and accelerating river.

And what does that have to do with Philippians 4:6?

The most remarkable and strange characteristic that we can observe in our generation, and which has defined today's society, is restlessness; men and women, young people, adults, the elderly and even children, all full of uncontrollable and conflicting desires, dreams, passions and ambitions fighting each other in their minds, hearts and spirits, producing a lot of noise within such individuals, constantly, massively and in such a way that accelerates and distracts them from the things that really matter throughout life; in fact, this turbulence and this deafening and debilitating internal "noise" produced by restlessness in the spirit is precisely what is already being considered by many health experts as the evil of this century; the anxiety.

So one might ask: Are you saying that anxiety is caused by the restlessness of the human spirit?

Yes. Exactly. Anxiety is a reaction of the human mind triggered in response to a deeper cause which is precisely the restlessness of the spirit. A restless spirit makes this restlessness “ramify” and “echo” through the people's mind and heart, producing what science calls anxiety, which will generate devastating effects and symptoms on mental and physical health, as well as over the entire anyone's lifestyle. This is why many people are trying unsuccessfully to fight the anxiety they feel, many are spending real fortunes on psychological, medical, pharmacological help and yet they haven't experienced significant progress in combating the anxiety they are feeling, everything they are experiencing and achieving is just a kind of superficial "anesthesia" that fades away in a short time and soon they are again whipped by the thoughts, feelings and emotions generated by anxiety.

What such people do not know is that in order for the anxiety of the mind to begin to be dissolved completely, once and for all, in anyone's life, the spirit must first become quiet, for the quieter the spirit the more calm and serene the mind will be, since they are intimately connected, otherwise such individuals will never be able to develop true meekness, which is inner peace, the peace that Jesus himself made available to us, as He himself revealed in John 14:27, which says, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.". And without peace of mind, anxiety will always be there, sometimes stronger and more noticeable, sometimes less, but people will never get rid of it entirely.

In today's society, there are many tools and techniques being used to try to reduce the effects and symptoms of anxiety in people, and as much as such techniques and tools have their value, and if they are used with due wisdom they can really be useful, in some extent, none of them will be able to eliminate anxiety from the minds of individuals completely as none of these tools and techniques attack the cause behind such anxiety, which is the restlessness that there is in the human spirit. Treating the mind's anxiety, but leaving the spirit's restlessness without proper "treatment" is like trying to dry a rock that is in a raging river.

The poet and writer Henry David Thoreau, whose work served as an inspiration for Martin Luther King, once said that: "Most men live lives of silent despair"; This statement is especially true even today (more than before) and this “silent despair” is nothing more than the human spirit's own restlessness that always remains in the background, subliminal, furtive, like a gray and diffused fog in the back of people’s mind and hearts, it does not allow individuals to discover and cultivate peace of mind while distorting all ability to perceive life in an adequate, edifying and balanced way; and, as if all this were not bad enough, such restlessness still has the capacity to corrode and distort faith; as Galatians 1:7 reveals when says, "...But there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ." People with a restless spirit tend to try to share this restlessness, contaminating others around them as much as possible, and as the Apostle Paul noted in the letter to the Galatians, this phenomenon also occurs within congregations.

And how to deal with this restlessness?

First, we must identify the distortions that this restlessness produces, so that, with due clarity and awareness, we can adopt mental and spiritual practices that will neutralize all restlessness and dissolve anxiety.

So, what are these distortions?

The truth is that there are many, and several of them are different from one person to another, so it would not be possible for me to talk about all of them here in a simple text like this, however, there are also those that are more “generic” and can be observed in the most individuals; and these are the ones mentioned here. Keep in mind that although they are “generic”, this does not make them any less harmful, so it is extremely important to understand that we cannot ignore them:

A big distortion that restless people show is the feeling that life is not long enough for them to be able to do, have, and become, everything they want; in fact, the ability to perceive the passage of time is drastically compromised the more the restlessness builds up within individuals, which is why it is so common to see people inside and outside congregations complaining that the year is passing too fast and the days seem getting shorter.

Another symptomatic distortion shown by people with a restless spirit is the non-negotiable desire to fulfill absolutely all the dreams that are inside them, even the most meaningless ones, in such a way that they do not even realize that most of these dreams are not genuinely theirs, but from society, Ego and the very spirit of the world, that is covertly influencing them or manipulating them like puppets.

One more distorted effect on people whose spirit is restless is the acceleration of mind and lifestyle; all thoughts, feelings, emotions and intentions of such individuals are getting faster and faster inside their mind so that they become uncontrollable, frantic, as well as their lifestyle become increasingly exhausting, confusing and burdensome.

There is also a symptom which is the constant dissatisfaction that never leaves them, no matter what they have, or what they achieve in life, it is never enough; they are always with the heavy feeling that something is missing from home, finances, work, leisure, family, relationships, thoughts, spiritual matters and absolutely everything that is part of their existence.

It doesn't take much effort to realize that the combined action of all these distortions of  restlessness that have afflicted people in society and in congregations is the right recipe for turning anyone's existence into a journey filled with self-imposed suffering, unhappiness, disharmony and a deep sense of inner misery; all this potentiated by a lot of anxiety; even among individuals that socially succeed. This is one of the reasons why there are currently more and more businessmen, doctors, artists, religious leaders, politicians, celebrities, executives, athletes and so many others with prominent social positions, but whose minds are almost collapsing.

Unfortunately, such a scenario has not only happening to socially outstanding people, but to an increasing portion of society, from those with a life situation of scarcity to billionaires, all suffering from that same spiritual "illness", restlessness. The fact is that the spirit of the world has spread its dark veil of restlessness over a good part of humanity to make people more and more accelerated, deluding individuals with a massive amount of illusions, fantasies and social dreams so that they do not perceive the true life that there is in them and which is buried under the endless search, acquisition and accumulation of tons of supposedly golden things.

So now let's talk about one of the spiritual practices that genuine Christians engage in daily, which is the cultivation of stillness. And how to do it?

Exactly as the text of Philippians 4.6 teaches, that is, “...but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”.

In the past, all the petitions of true Christians before God were intimately connected only with their most basic needs such as food, health, shelter, clothing, work and decent remuneration; just as prayers and supplications were always sustained by genuine faith, and directed by hope and love, to God, to neighbor, and to themselves; while nourishing a deep sense of gratitude to the Most High, since such basic and simple things in life were provided, even if in few, but sufficient amounts. So, because of this kind of behavior the spirit of those people was always at peace, and the restlessness of human nature could not penetrate, or take root, in them to disturb them, and so they were free and immune to all the social anxieties that the spirit of the world tried to throw on them, even in extremely delicate and challenging moments.

Nowadays, however, the restlessness of the human spirit is growing stronger and stronger because people in society are not in the wonderful habit of offering genuine prayers and supplications, nor of cultivating a grateful mind for the gifts they have, even if they believe them to be few; indeed, such people do not know that genuine prayers and supplications calms the spirit with hope, kindness, and love. Sadly, many within congregations are also being chronically victims of this unrest and its various effects and symptoms because when they make their petitions, supplications and prayers before God, such petitions are mostly connected with all sorts of superfluous things, just like their prayers and supplications are generally sustained by a vain egoic faith, and directed by dreams of meaningless consumption, compulsive passions, repetitive desires, ambitions, selfishness, narcissism, hedonism, megalomanias and much more; as the text of James 4.3 makes clear when it states: "You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it on your lusts.". Furthermore, because of the kind of distorted petitions, prayers, and supplications people make, they are unable to nurture in themselves almost any genuine sense of gratitude to God, even though they are living in times of tranquility and abundance. Anyone whose spiritual practice is reduced to this type of procedure will never be able to develop true peace of mind and will remain a mere puppet of his own restlessness.

If we really want our spirit to be at peace, if we really want to fully enjoy this peace in our daily lives, even in the midst of stormy moments, we need to make our petitions, prayers and supplications less and less contaminated with the distractions, illusions and fantasies that infest society; in other words, if all we want from God is for Him to grant us more money, possessions, clothes, and branded things to impress others, as well as social status, power, validation, fame, influence, and all the social treasures for which individuals in society are madly sacrificing themselves to possess throughout life, so the restlessness within us will continue to increase and make us feel miserable even if we achieve everything we are aiming for; as 1 Corinthians 15:19 states when it says, "If we hope in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most miserable.".

When we consciously and intentionally focus our petitions, prayers, supplications and thanksgiving on what really matters, on what is essential for us, the restlessness in our spirit will begin to disappear, as well as the effects of it, among which anxiety and other symptoms. This is the time when we will begin to experience the true and deep peace of mind that will protect our hearts and minds from the afflictions of life. In the book Anxious for Nothing, pastor and author Max Lucado says, "Peace comes when people pray." And I add that peace really comes when people really pray, without letting their prayers, petitions and supplications be produced or attracted and directed by the most diverse illusions, fantasies, dreams and golden deformations of society, which unfortunately has happened a lot in our time.

And how to do it?

In Ephesians 6:18 it is written: "Praying at all times with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit...".

Prayer in the Spirit feeds the peace of our spirit. Praying and supplicating in the Spirit means removing our Ego from prayers, that is, removing from your petitions, prayers and supplications, all ambition, all passion, all vanity, all selfishness, all narcissism, all megalomania, all meaningless dreams, all desire for vainglory and anything similar to these that you can identify within yourself. Believe me, we all still have a lot of these things accumulating freely inside us and these things are what contribute immensely to making us deeply restless and anxious, day over day.

It is not our Ego that should pray, in fact, we should never let it do that, because the Ego is flesh, therefore, it does not understand and is opposite to the things of the Spirit, although it knows how to pretend to be spiritual very well. If we allow our Ego to pray (and many have done it daily), our restlessness will be more and more accentuated, because our prayers will not be spiritual, but natural and even carnal. When we begin to eliminate the Ego, separating it completely from our spiritual practices (prayers, petitions, supplications, thanksgiving, and others), we will realize that real peace will already be present in us, because it has already been given to us by Christ, but it remains below the surface of our spirit, just waiting, “hibernating”, until we become aware of its existence and “location”. Thus, when we become aware that this peace is already within us, it will awaken, emerge and abundantly dominate our spirit, “disintegrating” any and all restlessness that tries to afflict us, as well as dissolving, from the “root”, any anxiety that society and the spirit of the world wants to place on us.

It's not such an easy process, but it's simple, anyone can do it, and it's extremely liberating.

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