Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, 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 4:4-9
Once upon a time there was a woman named Misery who lived in the land of Worry. Her name was appropriately fitting, for she was a woman full of woes and worries.
One evening, she had a visitor come knocking at her door. It was her friend Merry from the land of Rejoicing. Merry bubbled and encouraged, much to the dismay of Misery. This overly-cheerful friend never seemed to join in with Misery’s complaining and fretting and fearful predictions of doom and gloom. While Misery loved a bit of company, part of her wished her friend would reciprocate her worries when she came over to visit, yet another part of her found a modicum of peace in the rejoicing of her friend.
The next morning Misery woke up wanting some peace. So she set her heart to apply Merry’s joy-filled attitude. She headed off to the market that day determined to find something in her pitiful life to rejoice over.
On her way down the street she passed her neighbor, Gentleness. Gentleness was always so kind and Merry noticed that in return, people were kind to Gentleness as well. Bill collectors weren’t as aggressive and the neighbor who was mad about the dog, calmed down quickly. Misery decided that she herself would benefit from dishing out some gentle behaviors to others. So she began to treat her family and people she met more gently, which in turn made her more gentle on herself.
As days went by with Misery trying to put into practice the habits of rejoicing and gentleness, she found herself not quite so miserable, with less worries clouding up her mind.
A couple of weeks later she heard the church bells ringing in town. Those sounds made her rejoice a bit more. She thought to herself, “Maybe more peace and joy can be found in my religion. I have been slack about that and I have sort of given up on The God Who Sees Me.” So she drug out her dusty Holy Book to read the words of her Creator. As the warm, afternoon sun was setting, she read away the last hour of light and felt comforted. It seemed as if the God Who Hears was sitting right beside her talking to her, and she knew that he discerned the prayers of her heart. He felt near, and real.
She loved that feeling of nearness to the Holy One so much that she began a habit of spending time reading the Holy Book in the afternoon setting sun each day. As she read she found herself wanting to talk with Him. So she did! This conversation she knew was called prayer, but it seemed less like a religious activity and more like opening up her heart talking to a friend. And her heart filled with more contentment. It seemed that as she was filling up with positive thoughts of Her Beloved, those nagging thoughts she had been having didn’t have room to fit into her mind so much.
Her heart seemed lighter. She had more freedom of mind to think about important things and to be grateful! Misery found that the darkness that had surrounded her turned into glimpses of light when she expressed her gratefulness to Her Heavenly Father. She decided to start writing down a few things she was grateful for each and every day.
But one day, a horrible thing happened! In the aftermath Misery was thrown back into her old darkness! There was nothing good she could see to write down – nothing to be grateful over. There was no rejoicing. She was afraid. That fear boiled up in her as anger and she spewed hateful, fearful, accusing, unkind words at those she loved the most. And when she did that she even hated herself and could not manage to show gentleness to anyone, even herself. The afternoon sun did not lure her to her normal warm spot under the shade tree that day. She did not even miss reading the Holy Book and hearing from her Father. She had no inclination to hear from Him or to speak her prayers to Him. Her heart felt cold and alone. All her thoughts were consumed with fear, self-pity, anxiety, and worry over how this horrible thing could ever be made right. It seemed impossible to her!
Falling back into her past habits of miserable thoughts, her days and weeks began to feel desperate again. One day through the gloom she heard the church bells ringing again and had the thought “Thank you Father for giving me at least that one bit of joy in this horrible day.” As she thought that, it occurred to her that she was grateful for one small thing again! She was surprised that her bitterness waned a bit with these thoughts of rejoicing and gratefulness.
So she said to herself, maybe I can choose to think one good thought each day. Maybe that will give me a glimmer of hope. So that afternoon at her usual time when she used to read the Holy Book and talk to the Father, she had a good thought. She thought briefly about her previous happy times in the sun with Her Beloved. With that thought she decided to go out to Her place in the waning sunlight and make herself read His Holy Book again.
As she sat down and opened the Book, her eyes fell upon these words:
Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. (Phil 4:8-9)
Misery was surprised! Her Beloved was talking to her about Her thoughts! Could her thoughts and behaviors bring peace to her despair? The Holy Book said it could. And it must! What had brought her to this place? A thought of rejoicing over the bells! A thought of the warm happy times in the sun. Then a thought to come talk with her Beloved Creator! Yes! Thoughts could make a difference!
Misery went into her home and wrote these words upon a parchment and hung it on her wall where she could see it each day.
True. Noble. Right. Pure. Lovely. Admirable. Excellent. Praiseworthy.
These were the only thoughts she would allow herself to think. Yes! She would choose to drive out those thoughts of death and despair, the lies and fears, and even the hateful or jealous attitudes toward her neighbors. Misery made a Pledge to herself and prayed a brief prayer asking her Father to give her strength to live out this commitment.
At just that moment, her neighbor Gentleness knocked on her door.
She answered the door with joy and invited her in. “Oh Gentleness, I have been in such a state of worry, but I heard the church bells ring and was grateful for at least that. I met with My Beloved and His Holy Book reminded me how to think aright! I want to do that. But I fear I will fail.”
Gentleness replied, “Friend, I understand. My Middle name is Anxious!”
Misery was shocked! Could her gentle friend have even a tiny anxious bone in her body? So she asked, “You? But how? You always exude the gentle joy of Our Heavenly Father.”
Gentleness responded, “O, but the answer to that is a long story. I must tell it over a course of days not minutes, it is the story of my life walking with My Beloved.”
“Would you come every week and tell me more of your story?” Misery asked. “I would love to know it and learn from you and find out how I too can live at Peace.”
“Of course,” said Gentleness. “You can be my little learner, my disciple, and I will guide you with all I know so that you too can choose Peace and the Holy Way. Then you can change your name from Misery.”
“I would like that said Misery. “My middle name is Blessing, and I have always wanted to be called by that name, but it never quite fit my woeful life.”
From that time forward the worrisome Miss Misery became known as Blessing Upon Blessing because she walked with her Beloved Creator and learned from her friend how to live life fully, fighting off the worry in her daily battles that had previously controlled her life.