Handling anxiety

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 (NIV)

Read: Philippians 4:4-23

Consider: Have you ever woken up feeling anxious, yet not know the reason why?  Perhaps as your day progresses the burdens of life weigh heavy on you and your anxiety grows.  It might even be that during wakeful periods at night your mind turns to problems and worries.  People may feel anxious about their health, relationships, work or finance.  While these worries are specific in nature, it can often be impossible to highlight what exactly is making us anxious.

The Apostle Paul knew human nature very well.  In today’s reading he tells the believers in Philippi: ‘Do not be anxious about anything …’ (Philippians 4:6).  Paul is not telling them to ‘grin and bear it’, and he is certainly not trying to make those who are anxious feel guilty.  It is too easy to give fellow Christians the impression that life should be ‘a bed of roses’ when we commit ourselves to Jesus.  This may be reinforced when, as children, we sang choruses like ‘I am H-A-P-P-Y’.  Personally, I much prefer the other verses ‘I am S-A-V-E-D’ and ‘I am L-O-V-E-D’.  I’m sure there have been many times when our mood does not reflect the songs we sing.

Paul provides a solution to the problem of feeling anxious.  He tells the believers that when they feel anxious they should ‘… in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’ (4:6).  This is no magic potion or miracle cure for anxiety, but it does show us that when things trouble us we should take them to God.  This reminds me of a John M Moore hymn we sang many years ago: Burdens are lifted at Calvary, the verses of which are:

Days are filled with sorrow and care
Hearts are lonely and drear
Burdens are lifted at Calvary
Jesus is very near.

Cast your care on Jesus today
Leave your worry and fear
Burdens are lifted at Calvary
Jesus is very near.

Troubled soul the Saviour can see
Ev’ry heartache and tear
Burdens are lifted at Calvary
Jesus is very near.

If only we would take our worries and anxieties to the foot of the cross, acknowledging our inability to control our anxiety, this can allow God’s Holy Spirit to settle our hearts and minds.  Notice the Apostle Paul says that we should present our concerns to God ‘with thanksgiving’ (4:6).  This is the element in personal prayer that is so often missing.  Thanksgiving encapsulates being thankful that God can use our good and bad experiences to our benefit and to his glory, and also that his Word (the Bible) can be trusted.  So when Paul says: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (4:7), it is not ‘might guard’, but a definite ‘WILL GUARD’.

There is also truth in what Paul says in Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.  Replacing anxious thoughts, particularly during wakeful nights, can be achieved by reflecting on who God is, what has been achieved by Jesus and how we have the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives.  Reflecting on Bible passages and verses is also a useful tool in combating anxiety.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Amen (Philippians 4:23).

Pray:  Father, when we turn to you in prayer, asking you to take our anxieties away, may we be filled with your peace.  When we feel anxious, help us to turn our thoughts to you and your promises.  Amen

Every blessing

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