Be Calm In Thy Soul

by Tom Wacaster

Bobby Key once wrote the following:  “Most of us visualize our days surrounded by a tight circle of problems, annoyances, and responsibilities which are fast closing in upon us.  Each day finds us with a dozen problems to solve, a dozen appointments to keep, and a dozen decisions to make. This is not a true picture of our lives. No matter how busy our days or how crowded our schedule, we live our lives one moment at a time.  We solve our problems one at a time. Our appointments are kept one at a time.  It is only when we view them all at one time that we feel emotionally drained" (Bobby Key, Four State Gospel News, 6-93, page 2).  I can relate to that, can’t you?  Most of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves pressed from various sides, our schedules full, and our days literally crammed with so much activity that we scarcely have time to turn around.   As hard as we try to avoid it, we find ourselves anxious about a number of things, and peace of mind and heart allude us.  Or, as one author put it:

I have joined the new ‘Don’t Worry’ Club
And now I hold my breath!
I’m so afraid that I will worry,
That I’m worried almost to death!

We long for escape from our anxieties, do we not?   We long for calmness of soul, heart and mind.   There are some who seem to radiate serenity.  Their lives manifest an attitude which we all long to possess.  It seems like they seldom have any problems at all, and when they do face an occasional crisis, it flows past them like water over a duck's back.  Well, at least that what it looks like from  our perspective.   But sometimes appearances can be deceiving.   Asaph tells us (Psalms 73) that even the wicked may appear to possess peace of mind.  “When I saw the prosperity of the wicked...there are no bands in their death...they are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men….Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish” (Psa 73: vss. 3-5). 

Then, there are those who fit the profile described by another Psalmist:  "They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.  They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end" (Psalms 107:26-27).   I have come across individuals who are so “tied up in knots” that they make me nervous just to be around them.   We used to call such folks “worry warts”; though I admit I do not know where the term comes from.  Worry is what Mac Layton calls “sadness with pessimism.”  Layton then makes this observation:

It is thinking that things will persist and not get better. It is rooted in a behavioral choice that says the world is bad, defeat is certain, and the future is hopeless.  Anxiety borrows trouble; depression withdraws; it constantly maximizes the bad and minimizes the good.

Some years ago I came across a Peanuts Cartoon. Lucy, the eternal optimist, told Charlie Brown, “I have a cure for anything for just one nickel.”   Charlie Brown, the eternal pessimist says, “Do you mean you can cure deep down, black bottom of the well, no hope in the world loneliness?”  And Lucy replies, “For one nickel!”  

Does Charlie Brown’s diagnosis describe you?   Fortunately we don’t have to endure such negativity!   Since Jesus told the disciples that worry is actually a byproduct of a lack of faith, it seems obvious that anxiety is a consequence of poor choices and negative thinking.  

Now lets flip the proverbial coin to the other side.   Do you long for the peace that passeth all understanding?   It is a fact that our God promised us peace, such that the world has never known, nor will it ever know.  In fact, the whole of God's word points to a life that is "life indeed."    Some years ago I filed the following comment away for later use: "The lake must be calm if the heavens are to be reflected on its surface."   Our purpose in this life is to "reflect" the glory of Christ (cf. Matthew 5:16, 2 Corinthians 3:18).  If we are not letting the image of our Lord shine in our lives, perhaps there is a need for a calming of the troubled soul within.  With these thoughts before us, may we suggest the following:    

First, begin every morning with some quiet time with the Lord and His word.  I try to arrive at the office early enough to spend some time reading from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.   I look for something in those passages that might help me to have a better day;  to help me face the temptations that might come my way.  

Second, follow the Biblical admonition to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  When things go sour at work , or during the early morning traffic rush, pause for a word with God.  It does not have to be long; only earnest; and you don’t have to close your eyes or prostrate yourself to be heard.  In fact, if you are driving I would hope you would not attempt to do either; it might only tend to increase your worries!

Third, cut down on your television, video games, and browsing the internet.  You might also try cutting back on the nightly news and the daily talk radio programs.    I am not suggesting that any of these things are bad; they just tend to turn your thinking to things negative and pessimistic.  Instead, take time to fill your mind with things that are "pure, lovely, of good report"  (Philippians 4:8).  There is entirely too much pessimism and "crisis" level information that comes through the public media. 

Fourth, count your blessings.  After spending some 18 months in South Africa, and working for the same amount of time traveling back and forth to Ukraine, I can assure you that we are a blessed people, materially speaking.   After a half dozen years traveling to Ethiopia, India, Nepal and Russia, my conclusion has only been strengthened.  Putting that aside, most of us would admit that beyond the physical, we have eternal "riches" in Christ.  The physical things with which we surround ourselves are nothing compared to those spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ.  Brethren, the child of God is on his way to heaven.  Let us rejoice in that truth, and allow it to calm our minds and our hearts in the here and now.   Let me close with the words of the Psalmist.  "Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distress.  He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still"  (Psalms 107:28-29).