To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Like many people, I became very anxious during the pandemic. In addition to facing stressors shared by everyone, like the uncertainty surrounding Covid, social isolation, and relational challenges created by super-charged politics, I experienced a series of family tragedies. First, I lost my dad and my mother-in-law within eight days of each other. Then, three months later, my mom’s dementia progressed to the point where she was no longer safe living alone. So, we brought her to live with us. It was distressing because the mom I knew was disappearing and also because she constantly forgot she needed help and would insist on going home. Together these things made my body feel continuously tensed and ready for action, like a tennis player bouncing from toe to toe, waiting for a serve.
Looking for help, I subscribed to an app that helped me to recognize, and step out of, my anxiety habit loops. One of my loops goes like this: get triggered by the physical sensation of anxiety—do a mental scan for mistakes—try to control the problem with worry—get more anxious—and repeat. The app helped me learn how to interrupt the cycle with curiosity and kindness. I discovered harsh self-criticism does not whip me into shape spiritually. When I beat myself up over my shortcomings, I assume God is thinking about me similarly, making me even more anxious. This thinking makes it hard to imagine God loves me and wants to be close to me.
In contrast, I am more receptive to the Holy Spirit when I show compassion to myself despite my imperfections. I become open to learning and change when I switch from judgment to curiosity. I can examine my faults yet feel peaceful and connected to God instead of nervous and unlovable.
The context of today’s passage is the promise believers are kept safe from judgment and will joyously celebrate when Jesus comes to bring the fullness of His kingdom to earth. I love the idea of being found faultless. I am comforted knowing the Holy Spirit helps me keep from messing up. Most of all, this passage reminds me God is not looking at me through the critical lens I often use to view myself but one of compassion, kindness, and love.
- Recall a time when someone scolded you for making a mistake. How does your body feel remembering the experience? Next, think of a time when someone treated you with compassion as you discussed your error together, seeking to learn from it. Once again, check how your body feels.
- Which person do you trust? Which person represents the way you treat yourself? Which person represents the way you think God treats you when you fail?
- For more resources to help manage and understand anxiety, please visit this webpage.