At the beginning of a new year, some of us will renew or orchestrate our efforts to achieve desired outcomes for our lives. The next few verses reveal how we might frame our dreams around the possible.

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:4-5 (AMP)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Matthew 6:27 (ESV)

Thinking about the above scriptures, what should we reasonably attempt to control? What must we relinquish to gain the peace we desire?

As I think about what generates anxiety in me, most of the time it’s the small stuff like needing to reorganize the dishwasher after other household members have once again misunderstood how dishwashers function. On the other hand, anxiety generators are just as likely to be stuff I can’t control. For example: “Don’t those politicians in Washington D.C. have a clue they’ll trigger WWIII?” or “This town is full of crazy drivers…someone’s going to get killed!”

The more I focus on correcting the shortcomings of others, the more anxious I become. Likewise, striving after living a longer life or nourishing expectations that I deserve praise, have the same result. A critical, overly ambitious spirit cannot generate graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, or patience. Only the Holy Spirit can nudge me away from self-centered nitpicking or aspirations, to gentleness of spirit.

As we remain confident that Jesus intends to provide his servants with every resource needed to serve him well in this life and that he will keep his promise to reward us in ways we cannot measure, our security in him is enhanced. Concentrating on the generous character of our Master leaves us free to rejoice in him, even in adverse circumstances.

So resist overestimating the adverse impact of mistakes (yours or of others) or setting your sights on unattainable or selfish ambitions. Simple reminders from the above scriptures can take the edge off looming anxiety. Embrace what you can control:

Rejoice in the Lord always.

Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.

He cares for you!

Write these three reminders on separate cards or sticky notes and place them in locations you frequent during the day. Then tell others about how the Lord has made himself known in unexpected ways.