Advent, the abdication of anxiety

“Guadete in Domino semper: iterum dico, guadete.”

“Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice.”

Philippians 4:4

Repetition being a sign of importance, this verse in Scripture is not so much a suggestion as it is a command. Like a loving parent who will raise their voice to get the attention of a child about to step into harm’s way, the Church demands our attention in this, of all things. “Rejoice!” Why?

There is a tendency to look at the dark, failing world and think there is no reason to try. There is an inclination to look at Christianity’s message of suffering and sacrifice and think that will only make things feel darker. But just as we’re about to step away from it all, the Church catches our attention with “Rejoice!”

Joy is hard-wired into us. We keep grasping for it, aiming for it, searching for it everywhere.

We try to find joy in things. It fails.

We try to find joy in places. That fails.

We try to find joy in people. They fail.

We try to find joy in God, but we’re still so focused on all these other options, that we assume He has failed us, too.

It’s just not true.

God allows these failures, not because He is content in our sorrow, but because He is always leading us to truth, to finding joy in Him first. Not because He is arrogant, but because the truth is that He is Joy itself. He is the Source of Joy. If you go straight to the Source, joy can then be multiplied over all things, places, and people. He doesn’t want us to settle for less when He knows there is an endless joy to be had.

“This is a wonderful paradox: that it is not that we put aside things as joy-givers but that we put them aside as the source of our joy. It is certainly not that we feel disappointed in persons and put them aside as a cause of our joy. No, it is that we go beyond that to the One who will never fail us, who is not ephemeral.”

Mother Mary Francis

But how do we literally achieve this?

If you want to rejoice, you must have faith. You must pray always. And you must trust.

“Faith pertains to believing with all our hearts that it can be done. Trust is the assurance that it will be done.”

Mother Mary Francis

Having grasped, aimed, and searched for joy myself for many years now, I find myself staring hard at that last one. Trust. Why don’t I fully experience joy? Because anxiety loves to stand in the way. Joy requires the abdication of anxiety. Anxiety is a destructive thing; it’s something we must be delivered from in order to rejoice always. And it is trust in God that delivers us from anxiety.

“Trust is the assurance that it will be done.” The only way I have ever found assurance in anything is through practice. Repetitive action with consistent results. If I believe that it can be done, then I need to step out in trust that it will be done. I say it to my soul again. Trust requires actual stepping.

Every time I have followed through by giving up a thing I was clinging to, and searched for Him instead, He has replaced it with something better.

Every time I have followed through by leaving a place I was clinging to, and searched for Him instead, He has replaced it with someplace better.

Every time I have followed through by letting go of people I was clinging to, and searched for Him instead, He has replaced my misinterpreted way of love with His way to love people better.

Keep stepping. Repeat it until you are assured of it. Rejoice in the Lord, always. Again I say, rejoice.


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