Anxiety is a killer. We have all experienced times when we are worried or anxious about something that we often have no control over. It creeps into our minds and can literally make us begin to feel weary. It crushes joy and often puts us into moods where we lash out at those we love and care about most. The worst part about anxiety is that it ultimately accomplishes nothing within us.
Jesus discusses the absurdity of anxiety in Matthew 6:27 by posing a question: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” No, we can’t. Actually we add nothing to our lives or the lives of others by participating in worry, except, you guessed it, more anxiety.
So how do we deal with this as Christians? We know that we are still going to inevitably be struck with times of intense worry and anxiety. Luckily, Paul has the answer for us. In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul states: “Do not worry 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.”
Now, if you’re anything like me, you just read that passage and immediately had a bit of anxiety. It seems as though Paul is flat out telling us “do not worry about anything.” Fat chance! There is always going to be something new to worry about. However, I don’t think this is exactly what Paul has in mind in this passage.
I was talking to a friend recently about this and he offered a bit of advice. He said to me that it seems more likely we should read this passage as “when you are worried…” this can be overcome with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Paul isn’t giving us a direct order that we are not to worry about anything, he is rather showing us that, through prayer and letting our requests be made known to God in everything, we won’t have a need to worry because God has met that need through Jesus Christ.
Paul is demonstrating to us that the only way to push out anxiety is to let God fill that space within us with His peace. We accomplish this through prayer and a posture of thankfulness in light of everything that God has already done for us in Jesus. By allowing God to occupy the space where our anxiety once was, we will experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. May you enter God’s peace the next time you feel anxious!