Some days you won’t get anything done. You can focus on the negative. It’s incredibly easy especially when the flu is involved. Kids’ fevers at 104°. Fear of hydration. You forget how precious water truly is. Drink up. Wash your hands. Work. Work. More work. A seemingly never-ending battle with influenza.
How can I think of work when an invisible enemy attacks so suddenly and without remorse. That is the hardest part of all. No one to blame.
But would assigning blame soothe the pain? No—push the negative thoughts out. This virus is infecting, not my body, but my soul.
All things do end up leading to the good. Pain when embraced openly and in service to others leads to a bigger heart.
So if you are experiencing anguish this Friday, I pray you look inward. Inward to yourself and beyond. To the inner Spirit from above. Serve others. Serve them well. You and I will make it through this struggle. Maybe telling your story is all you can do. It certainly seems to be today so true.
How is your Friday going? How do you manage work and family obligations when sicknesses are involved?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 15, 2017.
Throughout the Bible the phrase “Do not be afraid” is invoked over 300 times. In fact, the first mention of fear in the Bible is in reference to Adam and Eve hiding for fear of disobeying God for eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Fear, worry, and anxiety are feelings that are at the center of the human condition. The reality of sin—otherwise known as the separation from God—is the number one cause for humanity to fear and worry.
As a broken and fallen man, I struggle with worry constantly both in large and trivial matters. Changes at my workplace leads to anxiety on my part and past suffering such as the loss of my unborn child are a couple of the various things I worry about. Even this morning, I got anxious about what topic I should write about today.
Oddly almost immediately after my worrisome thoughts are lacking a subject to write about, my eyes noticed a bible verse I have posted on my cubicle wall. Matthew 6:25-34. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit granted me the gift of knowledge and understanding and shed light on my situation. I thought, “Matt why don’t you write about the subject of worry and God’s answer?!” Here I provide four reasons why Matthew 6:25-34 is the most relatable bible passage for me personally.
My personal anxiety
For most of my life I have struggled with anxiety and stress. It got so bad in high school that I went to see a counselor for a couple of years. I got it under control better in college but a couple years ago anxiety struck again—after losing my job, suffering a miscarriage, and stresses of adjustment to a new house and city—and attacked me.
I have since been on the road to recovery in large part to the sacrament of marriage [my wife’s patience is awesome!] and a discipleship group at church has helped as well. A few weeks ago, I printed off Matthew 6:25-34 and posted on my cubicle wall to remind me that God is in charge. Jesus reminded me,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? (Matthew 6:25-27).”
When I lost my job I seriously begin to doubt the providence of God and I worried about the very thing Jesus tells us not to worry about above—feeding my children. God provided me with a job that is less stressful that my previous job and allows for excellent flexible options for me to take time off in case my children get sick.
Why was I anxious about food and paying the bills?
Failure to trust and fear caused by sin. Once again the sacramental graces God poured out to me through my marriage helped me out!
Several passages in the bible sound anachronistic—out of place and outdated. Not so for Matthew 6:24-35. Jesus’ words relayed by the evangelist contain a message that will never age!
Finding adequate shelter, food, and clothing will always be relevant for the human race despite the leaps and bounds we have made technologically. That is the genius of the Gospel to stay relevant across centuries and centuries!
Birds of a Feather
Living in the Midwest of the United States of America, I see tons of birds in my yard and throughout the city. Robins, crows, and sparrows. Some bible versions translate birds as sparrows. Whether this is the most literal translation is debatable; however, I associate with this passage even more when the word “sparrows” are used. Jesus says,
“Look at the birds [sparrows] in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? (Matthew 6:26-27).”
I notice animals around my neighbor on a daily basis and they eat on a daily basis. God loves humans immensely more. Do not worry!
Each spring a sparrow tries to build its nest in our garage. Jesus’ words always come to mind in those I notice twigs and straw hanging from the rafters left by my aviary associate.
“Look at the birds [sparrows] in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?”
I had a profound moment of truth-finding a few years ago when I was writing lesson plan for my Old Testament class on the Book of Genesis. We were discussing the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I have always been curious about the angelic tussle in Genesis 22-32.
Until I read Genesis 33:1-11, I never realized the significance of Jacob’s bout with the unnamed angel. Let me provide a little context of the situation between the two brothers leading up to chapter 33. Esau being the elder brother was supposed to inherit the firstborn blessing from his father Isaac. However, his mother Rebecca favored the younger son Jacob. Through a bit of chicanery Jacob attained the blessing from Isaac and a rift divided the brothers for most of their lives.
What’s in a Name?
The name “Jacob” actually means supplanter in reference to Genesis 27:36. This poses a dilemma for those that claim Jacob as a rightful patriarch of the Jewish faith. It is by way of Jacob’s struggle with the angel and the angel’s inability to defeat Jacob whereby a conversion takes place. In Genesis 32:28, the angel states, “You name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
The immediate next encounter with Esau a reconciliation occurs. Their exchange is as follows,
8Then Esau asked, “What did you intend with all those herds that I encountered?” Jacob answered, “It was to gain my lord’s favor.”9Esau replied, “I have plenty; my brother, you should keep what is yours.”10“No, I beg you!” said Jacob. “If you will do me the favor, accept this gift from me, since to see your face is for me like seeing the face of God—and you have received me so kindly. 11Accept the gift I have brought you. For God has been generous toward me, and I have an abundance.” Since he urged him strongly, Esau accepted (Genesis 33:8-11).
Allegorically, Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel may be viewed as a foreshadowing of the sacrament of Confession. Anytime a name change occurs in the Bible a conversion takes place. One of the more notable instances is in the Acts of the Apostles where Saul encounters Christ and becomes Paul.
I urge you to have a wrestling moment with God. Let Him work in you and change you from a “Jacob” or “Saul” and transform you to an “Israel” or “Paul”. Practical tips during this Lenten season to grow in holiness may be to read the Scriptures and go to Confession. Let us journey together as we grow in holiness.
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Oprah Winfrey stated, “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” Empathy has become a primary focus for life in the 21st century.
Don’t Be Afraid of Feelings
Humans are composed of body and spirit. Fact and feelings. The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” does not apply anymore. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines empathy as the following: “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”
Recognizing the importance of feelings and acknowledging a person’s emotion(s), especially in times of distress does not lead to pampering them. Nor it is a sign of weakness. Actually, displaying empathy is a sign of strength. Obviously, facts are still important.
Empathy is Here to Stay
While can never dismiss concrete situations, acknowledging one’s emotions are essential for moving forward. The increased focus on mental health in recent years definitely shows the trend of empathy will stay. Empathy is not a mere passing fad!
According to author Kendra Cherry in her article Importance and Benefits of Empathy, “Empathy leads to helping behavior, which benefits social relationships. We are naturally social creatures. Things that aid in our relationships with other people benefits us as well.” I have discovered that the most difficult customer interactions remain tough in the situations where I failed to demonstrate empathy. Becoming more aware of the importance to acknowledge emotions, without discounting them, I have been better able to develop rapport.
Acknowledgment of emotion with a supporting statement acts as a bridge between yourself and others. People start to develop more trust when you are willing to LISTEN to their unique situations. Phrases such as “That would have hurt my feelings also” or “Tell me what you see as your choices here” are just a couple things to say or write aiming at empathy with a client, coworker, spouse, or neighbor. For a more extensive list of empathetic statements please check out the link in the resources section below.
“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels,” writes Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Use both your mind and heart when interacting with other. Be empathetic. Be reasonable. Encourage someone in a tough situation this week!