I don’t have to tell you that these are anxious times. You probably woke up this morning to an ongoing set of worries, and perhaps a few new ones.
Let’s open God’s Word together to see what He has to say to people like us who are daily being bombarded with all kinds of anxiety-producing circumstances and decisions.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.
Philippians 4:4-5 (ESV)
Notice the three reminders that God gives to His anxious people:
1. Anxious people need to be reminded to rejoice in the Lord (4:4).
Not once, but twice! It’s okay to rejoice in the Lord during a pandemic. More than that, you need to rejoice in the Lord, because the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Are you taking time to rejoice in the Lord? If not, please receive this as a word from the Lord to you today.
2. Anxious people need to be reminded that it is possible to be gentle even under trying circumstances (4:5).
You might be wondering why I said “gentle” instead of “reasonable.” A number of translations, including the NIV (New International Version) translate the word here as “a gentle spirit” or “gentleness.”
Under trying circumstances, we often react more strongly, more harshly than normal, and God can use these circumstances for our good–to show us what’s in our heart and reveal areas of sin.
You may feel today, because of some trying situation, that it is almost impossible for you to be gentle with someone or in some particular situation. But this is what God is calling you to.
When you lack the thing that God calls you to, that means you can ask Him for it. Pray that God would grant you a gentle spirit with that difficult child, that demanding boss, or that struggling spouse.
3. Anxious people need to be reminded that the Lord is near (4:5).
We know, intellectually, that God is near, but when anxieties come our experience of the presence of God is often the first thing to go, and doubt can begin to creep into our hearts and minds.
That’s why in the Old Testament God says to His people, “Do not be afraid… for the Lord your God is with you” (1 Chronicles 28:20), and why He says in the New Testament, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
God said this to fearful believers in the past because they wondered, when trouble came, if God was still with them. And He says these words to us today, right in the middle of our anxiety.
After these three reminders, God addresses the anxiety directly:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
Let’s unpack three key features of these verses that will help us fight anxiety.
1. Focus on the Person of God
We are to let our requests “be made known to God” (emphasis mine). Prayer is personal communication with God, and we need to remind ourselves Who we are talking to before we bring our requests.
In the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He didn’t jump right in to listing our most urgent needs. Instead, He begins with “Our Father, who art in heaven…” It is a short phrase, but there is enough here to orient ourselves to God. Our Father… We have a relationship with You. You care about us. We are sons and daughters. It’s right for us to come and ask. …who art in heaven. Our Father lives in heaven! He lives in a place we have never seen. He has ten thousand times ten thousand angels who serve Him there, and that means He is powerful and able to help us.
You get the idea. Begin with prayer, reminding yourself who God is, before you bring your requests.
How do we keep our requests from simply becoming an exercise in “worry on our knees”? We must marinade our requests in God’s goodness, like a steak, before we bring them to God. This is where prayer begins, and it is how anxious people like us are to bring our requests to God.
2. Prayer and Supplication
The temptation for us is to say, “Oh, God, you know everything. You already know what I need before I ask. Just help me!” And sometimes that’s the best we can do. But other times we just need to set aside time to sit down and talk to God.
Remember, anxiety is often caused by fear of the unknown, and fears that are kept in the dark will grow.
When you sit down with a good friend to talk about a problem, what happens? You tell them every detail… He said this, and then I said that. What if this happens? What if that happens? Sometimes you talk for hours.
Do the same with God. Pour out your heart to Him. Bring out every fear, every anxiety into the light of God’s presence. That’s supplication, and that is how anxious people like us are to bring our requests to God.
Now you might be wondering, What does thanksgiving have to do with anxiety? That is a good question. What are we doing when we thank God?
Thanksgiving reminds us of the faithfulness of God in the past. It fans both the flame of our faith and our confidence in God for the future. It reminds us that God hears us, and that He is willing and able to help us today. So don’t forget thanksgiving.
The Path to Peace
Let me leave you with a definition of anxiety from Pastor Colin Smith, it’s helped me more times than I can count. “Anxiety is anticipating a future problem, without also anticipating the Lord’s help.”
The next time you are feeling anxious, bring your requests to God by praying and supplication with thanksgiving. And when you do this, you can count on God to guard your heart and mind with His peace.