In his e-book Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado says that native Hawaiians have a word for non-Hawaiians—haole. Haole is a Hawaiian word for “no breath.” The word was associated with the European immigrants who came to Hawaii in the 1820s. Native Hawaiians say their forefathers thought the settlers were always in a hurry to build plantations, harbors, and ranches. To the native islanders, they seemed to always be short of breath.
I love Lucado’s description of the difference between anxiety and fear. He says the two are cousins, but not twins. “Fear sees a threat. Anxiety imagines one. Fear screams, Get out! Anxiety ponders, What if? Fear results in fight or flight. Anxiety creates doom and gloom. Fear is the pulse that pounds when you see a coiled rattlesnake in your front yard. Anxiety is the voice that tells you, Never, ever, for the rest of your life, walk barefoot through the grass. There might be a snake….somewhere.” Anxiety, he adds, “is a meteor shower of what-ifs.”
Do you find yourself out of breath because of the anxiety of life right now? Anxiety takes our breath, for sure, but it takes much more than that. It also robs us of our sleep, our energy, our well-being. “Do not fret,” wrote the psalmist, “it only causes harm” (Psalm 37:8).
Contrast that with The Message’s translation of the psalmist’s words in Psalm 34:1:
“I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise.”
If you find yourself short of breath due to the anxiety of our current situation, Psalm 34 offers the solution. Replace your fretting with praise, and your lungs will expand. “Seek the Lord, and He will answer you, and deliver you from all your fears. Those who look on him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles."
Paul’s letter to the Philippians includes similar encouragement. But wasn’t he out of touch with reality when he wrote, “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6)? “Be anxious for less” seems like it would have been a sufficient challenge, but Paul doesn’t offer any wiggle room. Be anxious for nothing.
Lucado says Paul wrote the phrase in the present active tense, which implies an ongoing state. It’s the life of perpetual anxiety that Paul wanted to address. In other words, the presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of perpetual anxiety is optional.
In these anxious days, find reasons to bless God and praise His name. There is no better way to expand your lungs and make your breathing easier.
Prayer: Father, we have many reasons to bless your name, so today we want to fill our lungs with your praise, and breathe easier. Amen.