In his classic work, “The Imitation of Christ”, Thomas à Kempis wrote: “Strive to do another’s will rather than your own. Always choose to have less rather than more. Always seek the lowest place and be subject to everyone else. Wish and pray at all times God’s will be fulfilled in you. If we will do this, we will enter into the inheritance of peace and rest.”
These words, written nearly six hundred years ago still hold great wisdom for us today. If we would live our lives in such a way, we would slough off much stress and anxiety. I believe most of the stress, regret, and worry we feel is due to our focus being on ourselves rather than on God and others.
Most days we get out of bed thinking of ourselves. We have family and work responsibilities, and hope to find maybe fifteen minutes for ourselves. It’s so easy in our culture to get busy with our day before we give it any thought. Even if we have developed the discipline of beginning our day in pray and quiet time with God, what happens when we are done? It’s certainly a very good thing to start the day with Jesus, but He desires and requires more than just the first hour. We need to be in constant communion with our Creator.
When we reorient our lives to be focused on God and others we are getting closer to the person He created us to be. Instead of planning what we will do for ourselves, we begin looking for ways to serve others. It’s no longer about us. It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about looking like Him and living for Him. We spend too much time trying to claw our way up the ladder of success and fulfillment, and often overlook those in need along the way. Instead of aspiring higher, we should be seeking to move down that ladder and helping those below us move higher.
The consternation we often feel is due to our focus being on ourselves instead of others. We become anxious about what we do not have, or jealous of what others have acquired or achieved. These are the things which disquiet our souls. When we look instead to God and others we will shed the internal struggles weighing us down.
When was the last time you made a conscious effort to promote someone else over yourself? When was the last time you stepped aside to let another go before you? Examine the source of your anxieties; are they due to things you desire for yourself or for God? If we are stressed by things which have no Kingdom value, perhaps it’s time to recognize our selfishness and misplaced focus for what it is.
Seeking first God’s Kingdom and putting the needs and desires of other’s before our own will not necessarily lead to a life of comfort and ease. But it will lead to an internal peace you will find in no other way. You will be moving closer to the heart of God, closer to the person He created you to be. There is no higher peace, no higher honor, than to live the life He intended for you to live. Live humbly and serve well; in this you will find true peace and true comfort like you have never known.