"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
It’s very clear what Paul is talking about here. That is, anxiety. If you currently feel anxious or have ever been ridden with anxiety about anything life, just know that you are NOT the only person to feel this way. It’s always been a human struggle. Why else would Jesus address it in His Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 6:25-34) and then Paul echo it here? That’s because we inherently strive to do things on our own. This is a problem. The imperative (command) here is simple: Do not be anxious about anything. Just being honest, that’s a pretty lofty command for most of us to even entertain obeying. However, if Jesus is our Lord and we believe that He has called us to obedience for our ultimate good and freedom, then we need to figure out how we can get there.
What are we dealing with?
First, we have to understand how anxiety happens. It starts with namely one thing: Fear of the unknown. This unwarranted fear leads to bad, unhealthy thoughts and ultimately down a slippery slope of “what ifs” that leave us trapped in our head and crippled to the point of inaction or overreaction. We’ve all been there at some point. It completely paralyzes our joy, our passion, our decision making and our ability to dream with God. That’s why the symptoms of anxiety are so tell-tale. We frantically scramble around trying to make everything happen on our own, we neglect our health, we fail to rest and we are drained of our desire to see God do impossible things. When we live out of fear, we are subject to falling down this slippery slope at any moment. So how do we back away from the edge?
a way out
Quite simply, Paul is offering us a chance to live with God. He’s saying that we get to be in partnership with Him. Rather than doing life alone and just gutting it out Rambo style, Paul is instructing us to bring our requests to God IN EVERYTHING WE DO (v. 6). Paul says this is done “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” (v. 6). Prayer, at its core, is talking with God. It’s not so much centered on asking (many of us look at God as a genie who grants wishes), but rather it’s purpose is to build a loving relationship with a Father. The second word, supplication, literally means ‘a humble petition’. This means that we get to petition God’s ear for the things that we want to see Him do in our lives. We get to ask Him to do the impossible. The third word, thanksgiving, is just as important as the first two. Paul is saying that in order to communicate with God, in order to ask Him to do the impossible we have to have genuine gratitude for what He has already done. He’s already given us His perfect Son and His Holy Spirit. We owe him undying gratitude. Reflect on that, then give Him thanks for who He is and what He’s done!
So Paul has given us this picture of prayer in which not only are we asking God to provide for our needs, but we are engaging in conversation with and giving thanks to a Father who loves us. So what’s the result? Peace. It’s the opposite of anxiety. In fact, peace is the mark of freedom from anxiety that can only be grown by the Holy Spirit. And not just temporary relief, but it’s “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (v. 7). This is the peace of Heaven that won’t forsake you, but it will keep you from the grips of future anxiety. It will “guard your hearts” from the fear that taints your hope and “[guard] your minds” from the dangerous thoughts that lead to that slippery slope. Our God gives us peace that heals, restores and gives hope. He is nearer than you think.
We are tired of living in fear of the unknown. We are tired of sowing in vain. We are asking you to free us from this bondage. Send your Holy Spirit to help us have conversation with our Father in Heaven. Let us hold fast to the truth that our God has not forsaken us and that He will always take care of His children. We ask for peace where there is none, and faith where there is little.