Anxiety My Enemy
Anxiety is not my friend.
I have had a propensity towards being anxious as long as I can remember. Philippians 4:6, which says, “Don’t be anxious about anything,” has been a place where I have parked often.
Recently I had a friend point out some valuable insights into that passage. When you consider the verses that surround the famous verse 6, you get a better picture of what Paul was exhorting the Philippians to do.
Let’s take Philippians 4:5-9 apart. There are 4 Rights in this passage – Right Awareness, Right Praying, Right Thinking, and Right Practice.
1. Right Awareness
(v.5 CSB) Let your graciousness [gentleness, reasonableness] be known to everyone. The Lord is near. When we are in a conflict or facing hard circumstances, that pressure can cause our words and reactions to be filled with spikes and poison. We need to realize that God is right here in our presence (Matthew 28:20, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Hebrews 13:5-6), and we are right there in God’s presence (Ephesians 2:6, Hebrews 10:19-22)!
Every sin that we commit is a result of a wrong view of God. If we practiced His presence, we would sputter and fume less and speak to Him more. Jesus tore down the curtain into the Holy Place by His work on the cross, and we are allowed to enter in without a priest and speak to the God who created or permitted these circumstances! The Lord is near is a great reminder that we should turn our thoughts toward Him and pour out our hearts. He is there observing us; He fights for us; He prays for us. He is at hand in formulating the trial and filtering the toxic to get us to trust Him and talk to Him.
2. Right Praying.
(vv.6-7) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be make known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This SECOND RIGHT is the one I want to emphasize. In the middle of instructing us to ask God to respond to our needs in specific ways, Paul adds “with thanksgiving.” We are to pray earnestly (“please help with this”) with thanksgiving (“thanks for this”). We need to think thanks about what is testing us and express that thanks to God.
How do we do that? We choose to look for things that we can be th(i)nkful for right in the difficulty. It is after praying this way that the supernatural peace comes that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. In fact, some would argue that thanksgiving is the trigger for downloading God’s peace.
3. Right Thinking.
(v. 8) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things.
Having rolled my burdens onto the Lord, it is amazing how quickly I grab them back and then stress over them as though I am the only God who can fix them. Paul writes that the battle is in our meditations. I need to focus on what’s true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. By way of contrast, what we should not think about are things that are untrue, improper, dodgy, blameworthy, evil, dubious, unethical, shameful, ignoble, and disgraceful, to name a few.
4. Right Practice.
(v.9) What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
So after we have now learned this new way of living – right awareness of the Lord’s presence right here, right now, right praying that always includes thanksgiving, and right thinking that fuels our outlook and conduct, we are to DO this over and over. We practice this. We are not just hearers of the Word, but doers.
Being th(i)nkful is a direct cure for anxiety. When we worry, we are not trusting that God is in control. When we are th(i)nkful, we are resting in His sovereignty and choosing to meditate on all the things we can be thankful for instead of untruths that fuel our anxieties.
Dr. Shelbi Cullen, my counseling internship professor at Master’s Seminary, shared these thoughts to help me help others, but I have found that it is first helping me. 🙂
- Remember that the Lord is right nearby.
- Pray hard with thanksgiving.
- Think the right way.
- Practice these things.
Practice th(i)nkfulness to vanish anxiety