image inspired by the movie Frozen
“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.” – Philippians 4:6-7
We Have All Been Anxious
Anxiety is a pervasive emotion; once it starts it’s hard to get rid of it. There are so many things we can be anxious about: provisions, security, relationships, future, projects, etc. Life is full of so many things out of our control that we are tempted to be in a constant state of anxiety.
The Bible tells us to not be anxious, and Jesus tells us not to worry, which are really the same thing. Anxiety is rooted in fear, but that fear is usually hidden under the surface. This makes anxiety hard to uproot at times.
Every kid has experienced the anxiety of a pending test. The fear can be based on knowing we didn’t study enough and being caught unprepared. But the fear can go deeper, some may fear not doing well and embarrassing the parents. Some may fear being exposed as a failure. Whatever the fear, the anxiety is expressed in worrying about the consequences of a bad result.
Don’t Be Anxious
Philippians 4:6 tells us not to be anxious, but present those anxieties as requests to God. Anxiety naturally leads us to prayer. Even non-Christians are willing to throw up a quick prayer when they are anxious. But, what are we missing? Because, our experience with prayer does not alway lead us to the peace promised in Philippians 4:7.
For most of us, the anxiety remains because we are not presenting requests to God… we are telling God what He needs to do. “You need to tell me whether I should take this job.” “You need to heal my loved one.” “You need to come through for me.”
3 Steps to How To Not Worry
If we look deeper into the Philippians passage we really find the answer to our question. Chapter 4 starts with Paul dealing with a problem of unity in the church. In verse 4 he makes the declaration: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!” Joy in the Lord prepares the way to remove anxiety from our lives.
Paul then leads us to “let our gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” When we are anxious, we tend to push through on things to guarantee the outcome that gives us less fear. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit and is an overflow of trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness.
Finally, when we pray, we are to pray with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the oil that releases more of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He gives us hope and provides the landing place for peace in our lives. A thankful heart finds beauty everywhere because God’s blessings are ever-present in our lives.
Changing Our Perspective
The promise of the Lord is that we will receive the peace that passes all understanding. This peace must be from the Lord otherwise we would understand it. The peace does not come from the answer to the prayer; it comes from a change of perspective. God attacks our fears by partnering with our joy, gentleness, and thankful heart. He sees our faith in Him, and rewards it with Himself. He is peace.
Isaiah shares His experience in the year of King Uzziah’s death (Isaiah 6:1). Israel share much prosperity under King Uzziah’s 52 year reign. His death meant a change in leadership and an unknown future. As a prophet for Israel, this could lead to anxiety. In this moment God allowed Isaiah to see Him seated on His throne. The circumstance of Israel did not change, but seeing God in control was the comfort Isaiah needed.
This is also what we need. Jesus tells us not to worry because God sees the sparrow and takes care of them. How much more will He take care of us? This kind of prayer refocuses our perspective.
Maintaining a Life of No Anxiety
The peace that God gives us is to stay with us beyond our times of prayer. God gives us direction to how to maintain this peace in the next verse: “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” (Philippians 4:8). We maintain our peace by maintaining our perspective. Anxiety will always try to get us to look at the worse-case scenario. Bad things may happen, but we are to live with hope (Ephesians 2:12). As we keep a proper perspective, we will give no room for anxiety in our lives.
If you are having a hard time with keeping the right perspective and finding freedom from anxiety, then lean on the body of Christ. We are to encourage one another and give life through our words. We are God’s provision for encouragement. Let’s us rejoice always. Let our gentleness be evident to all. Let us be thankful and not be anxious. Happy Thanksgiving!