The four-step restorative process that we have been discussing in successive weeks—See, Accept, Appreciate, and Delight—is simple in theory, but often takes a fair amount of work and patience to move through all the steps fruitfully. Are you seeing progress? If not, go back to the earlier steps, and spend more time thinking, praying, and processing until you feel ready to move forward to the next step.
No matter how much you may still be struggling with one or more steps, the way forward will surely include thinking positively, prayer, and applying your faith in concrete ways. Paul’s teaching to the Philippians speaks directly to this spiritual truth.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice….
Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
And the God of peace will fill your hearts and minds
with the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me,
or seen in me—put it into practice.
And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:4, 6-9, NIV
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, he was in in prison for his faith, facing the possibility of execution. Yet, amazingly, he was able to be at peace and find joy in the midst of his suffering. He accepted his difficult circumstances and appreciated the opportunities they gave him to serve Christ and the Gospel ministry. He gave his heart to those in whom he delighted, and he laser-focused his mind on all the good and beauty he could see and perceive in the world and in others.
Such positive thinking and faith will not spare any of us from loss, unfair treatment, and suffering. You will struggle with many painful things throughout your life, just as I do every day. Yet, when I focus on what I’ve lost or can’t have or do, I get grumpy or depressed. When I focus on trying to please myself, I may feel happier for a while, but the feeling doesn’t last or doesn’t satisfy. However, when I delight in my relationship with God, in loving my family, friends, and neighbors, in thinking more about what I could give than what I could get, and in all the beauty and goodness in this amazing world, my life is often delight-full. And peace and joy are frequent companions.
What step are you ready to take next? See? Accept? Appreciate? Or, Delight?
Find a quiet place where you can sit and breathe deeply for a few minutes. Detach yourself from whatever emotional turmoil you might be feeling and quietly observe yourself. Then, depending on where you are in the restorative process, choose one or more of the following steps to take.
Step 1: Name the unwanted change or loss in your life that is troubling you. Ask God for help by praying, “Loving God, please help me to see what I need to see. Give me courage to face the truth, and wisdom and strength to act on whatever you reveal.” Then, when you feel ready, tell yourself, “I can face this. I will face this. I want to be able to go on with my life.”
Step 2: When you can clearly see the troubling turn of events that you cannot change, take a deep breath, exhale loudly, saying, “The truth[CK2] is clear. This is the way things are now. It’s not what I wanted, but I can accept it.” Repeat these sentences until you can express them with conviction and power in your voice.
Step 3: When you feel that you’ve let go of most of the emotional charge you’ve been carrying, turn your attention to your blessings and opportunities. Say aloud, “There’s more to my life than what I lost. I’m ready to start counting my blessings and looking for the opportunities that God may give me. I’m ready to move forward with my life.” The first few times you try to say these words, you may choke up or break down in tears. If moving on were easy, you would have done it a long time ago. Don’t give up. Keep saying these words until you believe them and feel your energy start to shift.
Step 4: Give yourself permission to enjoy your life again. Pray, “Loving Creator, please help me to delight in you more than in anyone or anything else. Please enable me to love what you love, to enjoy what you have given me to enjoy and to do, and to order my life by what you most desire.” Then, make a date with yourself. Perhaps it’s as simple as taking a day off or spending time in the garden. Maybe it’s sitting at the piano, singing a song, holding a baby, playing a game, or going for a walk. It’s time to laugh and love.
Bottom Line: Think positively and keep your eyes on your Creator and on Jesus. In life, there will always be so much that you cannot control, and so much suffering that you cannot avoid, but the more you focus your mind on and open your heart to whatever is good, beautiful, admirable, and life-giving, the better. The more you put your anxieties and grief in God’s hands, the sooner you will know the peace that surpasses understanding and the joy your heart longs for.
“Loving God, I want to experience greater peace and joy, and I want to be the kind of person who brings more peace, joy, and love into the lives of others. Please draw me closer to you and lead me out of all those places where I feel stuck emotionally. Help me to see, accept, appreciate, and delight more and more in you and all the good you have for me to experience and to do. Thank you. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.”