Don’t Worry, Be Holy
The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5b-7)
Over the last few months I’ve had a number of conversations with people who are struggling with worry and anxiety. The causes are varied: some with health problems, some in financial or relational difficulty. Most of the time, I direct them to this verse which is such a great antidote. Let’s walk through it step by step.
The Lord is near.
When we go through times of trouble, the Lord is not absent. He is near. The Scriptures say: The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Ps 9:9). Nahum 1:7 says this: The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. Though it is easy to feel abandoned, ignored and unheard, these are just feelings. The truth is that Jesus promised he would never leave us or forsake us, that he is with us always, even to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) That’s the truth, and we have to tell our feelings to get in line.
Do not be anxious about anything…
“Anything” is a pretty inclusive term. There is nothing that we need to be anxious about. To help us get this into our heads, imagine God pacing the floors of his heavenly palace, wringing his hands with a panicky look on his face, muttering, “What am I going to do about Glyn’s problem. Oh no…” Ridiculous? It’s meant to be. Such a God is unimaginable. He is sovereign. He is in control.
…but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
There’s the answer. God has provided something for us to do when we are worried or afraid. Talk to him about it. Ask him for what we need. Present the requests. I sometimes hear people say that they do not want to bother God with something so small, when big issues like war, human trafficking and so on, also need his attention. This theory only makes sense if we see God as having limited bandwidth like a slow internet connection. We worry that our small requests may block bigger, more important ones. But God is infinite and his capacity is infinite, so your requests do not cause a bandwidth slowdown.
with thanksgiving – that’s an interesting phrase to drop in here, but it’s a vital one. Cathleen and I have been having car troubles recently, and her car has been out of action since Christmas. In the midst of the anxiety about whether this could be fixed and how much it would cost, I reminded myself that we still had one working car, and that I was thankful for that; that there are people out there who have no vehicle and struggle to get to work and pay bills. Thanksgiving is a great perspective giver. There are almost certainly people worse off than you, and we each have much to be thankful for. Start with your salvation and work your way down from there.
And the peace of God which transcends all understanding…
I love this. This peace is so amazing, and so counter-intuitive that it is not rationally explainable. We can be in dire circumstances yet still experience the peace of God. It makes no sense. But that’s the miracle of it.
…will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
God’s spirit of peace can minister to our emotions (heart) and our thoughts (mind) as we submit to Jesus. We don’t need to feel fearful, and we don’t need to keep spiraling towards worst-case scenarios in our thinking.
So here’s my prescription for Don’t worry, be holy. Three P’s:
Panic – NO
Pray – YES
Peace – YES
Blessings to you, and may you experience the deep peace of God in your circumstances, whatever they may be right now.