By Janelle Pollard
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that we are living in a sliiightly stressful world these days. This may or may not be a good thing, but I hardly ever watch the news. In fact, if it weren’t for some of our friends at church, I would not have known about the last two tornados that were in the area recently or the snow storms that we have experienced over the past couple of months. But now that I know I can count on them for the weather, I really see no need to start! Next, I’ll slowly delete my social media accounts (where the news still seems to be loud and clear) and then happily retreat into my own little hermit world where the sad, scary, and anxiety-provoking headlines can’t find me. Now, I realize this isn’t really the answer, but sometimes it sounds like a good idea. Did you know that, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, over 50 million Americans report dealing with anxiety? I don’t know how accurate that number is, but I do know that 50 million is a really big number.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” If I had to describe that in my own non-dictionary words, I would simply say “a lack of peace.” For many, peace can seem so elusive sometimes. Now, I understand that some people suffer from clinical anxiety due to chemical imbalances and things outside of their control. This is not an attempt to cause guilt or shame to those people. However, some of us create these feelings of unease in our own lives when we simply don’t have to.
In Philippians 4, we read about the God of peace:
“Do not be anxious 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. 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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
The Cliff Notes of this text:
1. We are given the following command: ”Do not be anxious about anything.”
God doesn’t just leave us hanging, but is offering us help. Christians have the incredible blessing of belonging to a God at whose feet we can lay our greatest (and smallest) problems. And not as a burden to Him, but by His own command because that’s how much He loves us.
2. If you have known the peace of God, then you know that it truly does surpass all understanding. The verse says, that if we will let our requests be made known to Him, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What a priceless blessing!
3. We are given practical instructions on how to avoid unnecessary anxiety. Here are the things we should think about:
- Worthy of praise
Eight things we are given in this verse to fill our minds with. We should elevate our thoughts to a higher, holier mindset by constantly focusing on these types of things. The “Elevated Eight,” we shall call them. If we watch movies and shows filled with bad language, violence, and obscenities, or listen to music and podcasts centered around worldly topics, we can’t expect to have thoughts based on the “Elevated Eight.”
4. At the end of this verse, Paul and Timothy give us one last piece of advice: “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” We must take action and put these things into practice. They have given us great examples in their own lives and we would be wise to learn from them. If we just twiddle our thumbs and cross our fingers, while hoping to find peace, we will be greatly disappointed. We are not told that the God of peace will be with us by sitting idly by. However, we are promised that if we practice these things, then He will. And we may not be perfect at it at first, but as we’ve surely learned throughout life so far, practice makes perfect!