6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7-Source: Bible Gateway
“Be anxious for nothing…” A four-word phrase, but probably one of the most pregnant-with-meaning phrases in the New Testament if not the whole Bible.
All my life I have struggled with anxiety. Some of it is by heredity. I have many extended family members who are on anxiety meds, so I don’t discount DNA factors at all. It plays a part in some types of anxiety; however, I also believe that DNA doesn’t have to dictate one’s destiny. I think a big factor in spiritual/emotional/mental health is how we deal with the things that are handed down to us genetically, by nurture, as well as our by our own God-given personality traits.
In my public life I’ve been able to play it cool most of the time. You would never know this is a struggle within me. My anxiety publicly usually is masked by perkiness, talking, and high energy.. Some of what I term anxiety is actually excitement, but even my excitement can be tinged with an anxious undertone. Those of you who deal with anxiety will understand that feeling. To function well in everyday life I’ve learned to channel my anxiety/excitement in productive ways (that’s actually a good thing!).
But so-called good anxiety aside I still, at times, deal with the yucky, Calgon-take-me-away type of anxiety. In fact, for years, it colored almost everything I did. Even the excitement anxiety would spiral into anxiety attacks at times. Example: Being excited about taking a vacation (a good thing) but ahead of it becoming so overwhelmed by everything I needed to do to prepare for the vacation I would loose sleep, worry (especially about my pets I was getting ready to leave) that by the time the day came to leave for said vacation I would be an anxious moody mess and take it out on my significant other(s). It would usually take 2-3 days once reaching my vacation destination to relax…that is if I ever did relax!
This is something I’ve taken great pains to work on in the last few years. I’ve not done it alone. I’ve had the wonderful support of counselors and friends who have held my hand as I’ve walked this journey to whom I’m very grateful. Primarily, I’ve relied on God’s help.
What I’ve learned through Biblical counseling is that we do have to lean on God heavily to deal with things like anxiety, but how on earth do we “Be anxious for nothing?” If you stop at the “Be anxious for nothing” phrase and don’t read the context of what follows in verses 6 and 7 it would seem like an impossible task. What follows that phrase are the keys to carrying out that seemingly impossible task:
” …but in everything by prayer and supplication…” Let’s get very literal about the phrase “Be anxious for nothing” God tells us to not BE anxious, but that doesn’t imply that we will never feel anxious. God gave us the ability to feel anxious. When real dangers come anxiety is a good thing. It triggers our fight or flight response via our adrenal glands. So, we will feel anxious at times appropriately. The problem with us who have chronic anxiety issues is that somewhere along the way our bodies either by DNA, but mostly by our thoughts, learned to perceive so many things in our daily lives as threats that were actually not true threats…at least not the fight or flight type of threats. We actually thought ourselves into being anxious. There is a big difference in feeling and being. As long as we’re on this fallen earth we at times are going to feel anxious. The main principle of not letting feeling become being follows that initial four-word phrase, “…but in everything by prayer and supplication…” When we feel anxious we’re supposed to immediately take those feelings to God. The instruction doesn’t change whether it’s a real threat or just a perceived threat. We immediately take it God. Now, if a speeding bus is barreling towards you, get out of the way first, of course, but when it’s our feelings we cry out to God either internally or externally. I’ll be the first to admit when feelings of anxiety hit it’s become habitual for me to immediately whisper or even shout “Lord, help me!” I try not to do it in social settings, but I find actually speaking that simple plea out loud when those anxious feelings hit can actually do wonders. Do the feelings immediately go away? Sometimes yes, but oftentimes no, but when prayer is my go-to reaction to anxiety the anxiety at least reduces, because I’ve just told “Daddy” to handle it. It’s a release. It’s not always appropriate for me to stop and go into a long prayer, and really, a long prayer is not always necessary. A simple “help!” is all that is needed even if it’s spoken inwardly from your soul.
But there are times when “supplication” is needed…when you really get nitty-gritty with God about a situation that is threatening to usurp your peace, or has usurped your peace to the point you are being anxious. That’s when you go to God, and say, “God, I’ve moved from feeling anxious to being anxious, and that’s what Your Word tells me not to do. [This situation] is really disrupting my peace, and I need Your help in not only fighting my battle(s) in this situation, but I need to lean on You to give me peace…”
“with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…” This goes along with prayer and supplication. Tell him what you would like to see happen. Many of us have become disheartened that God hasn’t given us what we’ve asked for (e.g.babies), but God always answers our prayers even when at times our prayers haven not been answered in the way we hoped. I’m to the point in my journey that I’m beginning to see why God didn’t always give me the exact desires of my heart. In some ways I will not understand until I stand before Him after I leave this earth, but as the big picture unfolds over time there are ah-ha moments. I’ve had several in the last few years to the point that I can honestly say, “I am GLAD You didn’t answer in the way I asked.” Still, God tells us to ask, and like a good father (and He is a good father) He will decide if what we are asking for is in our best interest or not, and he ALWAYS has our best interest at heart. That’s the most comforting thing about complete trust in God’s ways. He will never give us anything that is not in alignment with His divine will for us. And so when we don’t get something…even if we feel disappointed for a while…thank Him for His ways are higher than ours. That’s why I think this part of the verse is prefaced “with thanksgving” because we should already be thankful for what God is going to do with the request before we even make the request. It’s already ALL GOOD!
“…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” And there you go…the full circle of how to not be anxious. Once we’ve done what we are to do…prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and requesting…God promises to give us the peace that passes all understanding, and He will guard your and mind through Christ Jesus. Done.
So, you see, it’s a process. If you are waiting for the day that you won’t feel anxious you’ll go through life feeling like you’re failing at this anxiety thing everyday. When you have that feeling that threatens or…and let’s face it, we’re sinful humans… we dissolve into being anxious we need to focus on minds on Philippians 4: 6-7 which is God’s remedy for being anxious. The more we learn to catch our anxiety at the feeling stage, and use God’s process, the less we’ll find ourselves being anxious.
And I’m alive today because of of these verses…