There are some words of wisdom from Paul that have been on my mind and on my heart for some time now. Those words come from his letter to the Philippians:
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. - Philippians 4:6-8 NLT
Those are challenging words. They are words that are difficult to follow at times. We seem to live in a world that wants us to worry. And we are all too often willing participants. Society yearns, and begs, for our worry, our concern, our outrage, and we oblige it. We oblige it with tears of sadness and words of anger. And we do not find God's peace there.
We live in a world that wants to give us lies and "alternative facts" in place of the truth, corruption and deception in place of honor, and all too seldom offers pure, lovely, and admirable actions for us to fix our thoughts upon. It instead gives us the evil of mass murder and terrorism to occupy our minds as we lay waiting for sleep each night. It gives us the impurity of pornography thrust upon us in virtually every form of media imaginable. It gives us increasingly dishonorable and less admirable discourse from our political leaders.
As the events in Las Vegas unfolded the other night, and the death toll rose, it occurred to me that while there was certainly evil in the act, a possibly greater evil is yet to come. The trap has once again been laid and we once again will step squarely into it. We will spend days, if not weeks, focused on the horrors of that night. We will have heated, angry, debate about gun control, and violence, and security. We will take aim at one another with our words, cutting deeply with each swipe of the tongue as we strive to win the argument. And we will deem it worthy of our concern and worthy of our tears and worthy of our outrage, because people died. And Satan will laugh, because he has again succeeded in distracting our thoughts from what is true, and honorable, and right and pure, and lovely, and admirable and has instead focused us on what is ugly and painful and evil. And we will question God and wonder why we do not feel His peace.
Even in the absence of such horrors as the concert in Las Vegas, we are bombarded daily with more than enough to keep us distracted. We celebrate this connected world we live in, and that connectedness can be good. Yet with that connection comes pleas for your worry from every corner of the earth. Until very recently, I would never have known about the young child missing in Kansas, or the child with cancer in Oregon, or the woman in Vermont who was beaten and left to die. But a quick scroll though Facebook or the MSN home page brings all of those things and much more before my eyes in an instant, and with them comes the implied requirement of my worry and concern, and yet I don't have enough of either to meet that ever-growing requirement.
Well then, what are we to do? Paul tells us not to worry, but to pray. He tells us to tell God what we need and to thank Him for all He has done. I would certainly not submit to you that you should do otherwise. But I would suggest that we also follow the other advice he gives. The advice to fix our thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, and to think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. And how do we do that?
For me, it means acknowledging the tragedy of a mass murder, but being willing to move on and quickly refocus. I have to turn off the coverage, whatever the form. It means limiting the number of things I allow to reach my eyes and my ears, and thus, my thoughts. You will not find me on Facebook or other social media. I make a conscious effort to steer clear of things that will trouble my soul, yet are beyond my control or the reach of my help. After a recent conversation that opened my eyes to how detached I had become, I am also working to build stronger relationships here in my own community. And I have found that it is amazing how much peace you can find when you stop soaking up all the world's troubles and instead use that energy to focus on the good that is right under your nose.
So, I challenge you to consider what things Satan has put in your life that distract you from fixing your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. What things beg for your worry that you can turn off or discard? What steals your attention from the good things God has put in your life? What things do you truly need to give to God in prayer. Find those things and deal with them and I believe you will see God reward that effort. I believe you will find God's peace.