From time to time over the course of the last 15 years I’ve dealt with low back issues. When I’ve done too much of the wrong thing my back will “go out”. To me that means I’ll feel spasms like electric shocks whenever I move just slightly the wrong way. It means I can’t stay in one position for very long, I can’t do my normal work routine, I can barely get in and out of a car, I have to be very careful when sitting down, laying down or getting up from either of those positions. I can’t go out and play. I get grumpy and self-focused and depressed. I absolutely hate it. In so many ways and for so many reasons, I hate it. Did I say “I hate it”? Well, I really do hate it.
I have learned over the years that with the help of good chiropractors, physical therapists and exercise trainers, there are a number of things I can do to help myself out of this bad place. I can ice, I can stretch, I can do certain exercises, I can get laser treatments, I can walk and walk and walk. I can learn to guard my low back by better engaging my transverse abdominals (muscles that wrap around your body below the navel which act like a belt supporting your back). I can also protect my back by keeping good posture, holding my head in line with my back, and using my glutes instead of my low back muscles for stability. I have to be very aware of how I’m moving, but if I’m careful, I can still function fairly well until my back muscles finally relax and get back to normal. I am so thankful for what I’ve learned over the years and especially for the knowledgable people who have helped me so much.
So I was reading in Philippians this morningand I was reminded of how God, as a good and perfect Father (and as The Great Physician, as well) gives us such wonderful instruction and advice for living well. In Philippians He tells us not how we can guard our backs, but how we can guard our souls:
The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Wow! He tells us that His peace is what guards our hearts and minds, our souls, and He even tells us what part we have to play in getting that peace. He gives us strategies for guarding and protecting our souls. I love that! There is something we can do. We need to realize first and foremost that He is near us. He has promised never to leave us. Then, rather than worrying and being anxious about things, which we are all inclined to do, He tells us to talk to Him instead.
Bring to Him our concerns and troubles, pray about them, ask Him for what we need and above all, bathe all of these prayers and requests in a pool of gratitude. To me it’s interesting and significant that the little phrase “with thanksgiving” sits right in the middle of this whole section, set off by commas, as if to say this is the key. The key to peace and the key to being free from anxiety.
I read this quote somewhere once which is inspired by Matthew 11:28-30:
Rest is not the absence of labor, hardship or suffering... It is the absence of guilt, worry, anxiety and lack of meaning.
Fortunately we are not just victims of our mental, physical and emotional states, being passively carried down a stream in which we don’t want to float. God dignifies us with an invitation to participate with Him in such way that we can, at least in some ways, influence the course and outcome of our journey.
Living in a world where there are so many things to worry and be anxious about, it is reassuring that God knows our human tendencies and rather than judge us for our ignorance, foolishness or sin, invites us to let Him take the heavy load and gives us in its place a light load, easy to carry, full of gratitude, peace and grace.
The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I will never leave you nor forsake you.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”