“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Battles with anxiety are undoubtedly some of the biggest challenges for many Christians. Daily temptation. Frequent struggles. You may be able to relate. When worry settles and cycles in our thoughts, our heart rate increases, stress and tension starts to build inside, our blood pressure is on the rise- all of these tell the story of the anxious heart. For some, episodes of worry are situational and fairly short lived. For others, they are ongoing and long lasting, possibly even spiking with moments of panic. Such a roller coaster journey!
Yet the God of peace intervenes and provides a wonderful remedy for worry. The Apostle Paul lays it out in this passage. His remedy begins by telling us what we must not do. God calls us to bring that worry coaster to a stop. If you’re not on that coaster right now, guard your heart and don’t get on it. We shouldn’t be anxious about anything, Paul says. This is a command. It isn’t merely a suggestion. We must seek to get anxiety out of our lives and keep it at bay.
But how do we find success in doing this when worry is such a struggle? Stopping may often feel much easier said than done. It’s true that it’s a battle. It’s true that, in and of ourselves, we can’t do it. Anxiety pulls us inward and the vicious cycle spins in that place. If we resort to pulling up our own boot straps, trying to press through it, we will continue to spin. However, Paul says, be anxious for nothing. By God’s grace and work, we must not let worry control and cripple us. Rather, we must be diligent to anticipate what may arise, and plan for it, so that we’re ready when it arrives. We must take our thoughts off of ourselves (or those we’re worried about) and fully trust in God, His power and provision. We truly need to trust Him with all of our hearts and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Notice and take great comfort in God’s prescription of prayer, along with the promise of peace! “But in everything”, Paul says. Nothing is to be left out. When any thing burdens us, we must ease our minds by prayer. When we’re distressed, we must seek direction and support. Our prayers should be filled with our requests (our supplications), but also thanksgiving. Being thankful to the Lord draws us to be outward facing, not inward focused. We’re humbly thankful for His mercies, His kindness, His love to us in Christ. We’re thankful for His good providence. As we pray in this way, the God of peace promises to give us His peace.
Further, Paul teaches us that God’s peace brings a calm to our hearts and minds that we can’t understand. It gives hope in the midst of worry and despair. And note this- God’s peace guards. It not only strikes at the roots of anxiety, but it guards us through Christ to prevent us from turning back from God in sinful thoughts or desires.
I’m reminded of the first verse of the great hymn, “It is Well with My Soul”: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.” In the midst of the raging billows in our hearts, the rolling thunder and flashes of lightning in our lives, the peace of God prevails and attends to us. It’s impact runs deep. It teaches us, despite our circumstances, all truly is well with our souls.
I encourage you to spend time meditating on this passage. Even if you know it well and have it memorized, consider it afresh this week. Seek the Lord, asking Him to help you identify worry in your life and stop that roller coaster. Be in the daily practice of praying in the manner that God calls you to here. Don’t shy away from bringing everything to the Lord in prayer, with thanksgiving. Come to Jesus, knowing and trusting His promises that He will give you peace that will guard you in the midst of the storms. Praise God for His Word!