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Celebrate, ask, leave, meditate = CALM

As the coronavirus crisis deepens, so do our challenges as we hear the steadily worsening news.

How do we live with the reality of social distancing and still seek to look after each other as faithful Christians? Anxiety for most of us is sky high.

How anxious are you? Rate yourself from 1 low to 4 high.

Are you worrying more and laughing less?

Do you see problems everywhere?

Do you assume that something bad is going to happen?

Do you dilute and downplay good news?

Most mornings would you rather just stay in bed?

A lot of us would answer 3 or 4 to most of these questions in these challenging times, so I have a scripture for you to read. Philippians 4:4–9: Could you use some calm? If so, you aren’t alone. The Bible is Kindle’s most highlighted book and Philippians 4:4-9 is the most highlighted passage in the Bible. Most of us could use a word of comfort, and God is certainly ready to provide help in dealing with the extraordinary anxiety most of us feel today.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice. Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:4-9

If anyone had reason to be anxious, it was this writer, Paul. For 30 years he travelled thousands of miles, endured beatings several times. He’s been deserted by friends and coworkers, endured shipwrecks, storms and starvation. As Paul writes this, he’s in prison awaiting trial where he is due to be condemned to death. He is also hearing about several churches bickering and fighting. So much for the easy life of a preacher.

Yet, Paul writes, “Always be full of joy: Rejoice.” Then he promises that the peace of God will be with us. How can he say that? How does Paul maintain his faith during such tragedy?

Max Lucado, author of “Anxious for Nothing” describes this amazing passage of scripture this way, “Six verses with four instructions that lead to one wonderful promise: the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds.” What are the four instructions?

Celebrate God’s goodness. Rejoice in the Lord always.

Ask God for help. Let your requests be made known to God.

Leave your concerns with him.

Meditate on good things. Think about things that are good and worthy of praise.

The first letter of celebrate, ask, leave, meditate = C.A.L.M. The promise? The peace of God.

Using Max’s formula, here is my top 10 list for dealing with anxiety during this crisis.

Read Philippians 4:4-9 daily and practice C.A.L.M. – Celebrate, Ask, Leave, Meditate.

Read devotions and pray more. Watch 24-hour TV news less.

Focus on maintaining a healthy balance of rest, exercise, diet and recreation.

Establish and work to maintain daily routines for yourself and your family.

Creatively contact family, friends, neighbors and check on nearby single parents and the elderly.

Look for personal growth opportunities – spiritual, mental and physical.

Pray, pray and pray some more. Ask people to pray for you. Ask for prayer needs from others.

Look for a cause and wholeheartedly invest in it – financially, creatively and with your time.

Maintain a healthy sense of humor. It’s OK to laugh, especially at yourself.

Control social media before it controls you. Seek less politics and more encouragement.

Here is the critical point – with God as your guide, you will sleep better tonight and smile more tomorrow. As you practice C.A.L.M. and retake control of your emotions, you learn to cope with the extraordinary circumstances surrounding you. As you manage your health and daily routines, you look for opportunities to be in contact with others. As you spend more time in prayer, you are led by God to help someone or some group needing your support. As you laugh more and worry less, you can post encouraging words on social media which could lift the spirits of someone else struggling with their own anxiety.

This week is Holy Week, where we are reminded of Jesus’ last supper, arrest, trial, crucifixion, which all leads to a celebration of Easter. Jesus died and rose again to provide the best gift of all. Our church buildings may be empty, but as one pastor quoted, “The tomb is empty too.”

As Christians, Easter reminds us that Jesus came to give us hope that no coronavirus can ever defeat. So, Jesus, help us to replace our anxiety with C.A.L.M.

Celebrate, Ask, Leave, Meditate = C.A.L.M. And the peace of God which exceeds anything we can understand will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.