The Opposite of Anxious

Be anxious for nothingBy the time most of you read this on Monday, February 22nd, I will be at the hospital, either in the waiting room or at my husband’s bedside. A procedure that became necessary before heart surgery can be safely done at a later date is being performed today. Although doctors assure us that this is a “safe” surgery and is done hundreds of times each year at this renowned hospital, any surgery requiring general anesthetic should be faced with realism.

One night when these surgical plans had been finalized, I found myself awake in the dark hours. My thoughts skittered to hospitals, money, operations… Then my mind’s eye seemed to see a well-worn page in my Bible, the page on which are written the Apostle Paul’s words: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!… Do not be anxious about anything…

Familiar words, familiar concepts that have proven true countless times in my life. I have been overtaken by the mysterious peace of God too many times to count, too many times to doubt their wisdom and truth. This particular morning I settled on the word anxious and proceeded to a practice I often find helpful in Bible study: looking at a word’s antonym—the opposite of its general meaning.

The opposite meanings of anxious caught me up short: bold, brave, calm, collected, composed, confident, cool, courageous, happy, quiet, unafraid, unworried, assured, content, peaceful, tranquil! Impossible, was my first reaction.

Then I decided to check out the Greek meaning of the word; maybe I could find something less challenging! Here I found that the word anxious means to be “divided into parts,” figuratively “to go to pieces.” So not being anxious means being whole, not distracted. Still impossible.

Or is this exactly what God pours into us when we abandon ourselves to him, fully trusting his goodness and mercy? Is this what allowed martyrs of old and martyrs today to unflinchingly proclaim faith in Christ when fires burned, bullets flew and knives slashed? On a scale so much smaller, is this what God will graciously, abundantly, without reserve, pour into me?

I anticipate that in a little over twenty-four hours my husband will be recovering, ready to go home, and I will find uninterrupted sleep returning. But there is much to meditate on in the days ahead, even as we anticipate the more serious surgery. I need to be practicing the bold, brave, calm, collected, composed, confident, cool, courageous, happy, quiet, unafraid, unworried, assured, content, peaceful, tranquil life God promises! After all, in another place that same apostle said he “had learned…” Sounds to me like a process.

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