One of the most frequently read passages in the Bible deals with anxiety:
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:4-7, NKJV
Amazon tracks the verses that readers highlight using their Kindle reading app. According to Amazon, Philippians 4:6-7 is the most highlighted verse in the Bible. I think that’s because we have so many reasons to be anxious these days. When we open our Bibles, we have all of these worries and stresses that we’re carrying with us, so we go to God’s Word looking for some guidance. Philippians 4:6-7 is the most highlighted verse because it is God’s definitive word on dealing with anxiety and worry. According to this scripture, God can take us right where we are — with all of our anxieties and worries — and He can lead us to peace, God’s peace that passes understanding. That sounds like really good news to me!
I think it’s important to point out that the Bible never promises a completely anxiety-free life. That’s not what Paul is getting at in Philippians 4. Paul knows as well as anyone that life is filled with stress and worry and concerns — all of which produces some level of anxiety within us. Jesus himself said, In this world, you will have trouble (John 16:33). So a 100% worry-free, trouble-free life is NOT what we’re talking about here.
When Paul says, Be anxious for nothing, he’s saying, “Don’t be controlled by your anxiety.” He’s talking about anxiety that is chronic and perpetual. It’s the kind of anxiety that impairs our ability to function. That kind of anxiety is not what God wants for us — which is why God gives us some instruction on how we can overcome anxiety and keep it from controlling our lives.
I am so grateful for the resources we have for treating chronic anxiety. If you’re dealing with persistent anxiety, I think it’s really important to talk to your doctor or a therapist. There is absolutely no shame in talking to a health-care professional or utilizing some medication for your anxiety. It doesn’t make you less of a Christian. I think these are great resources for helping us to find greater mental and emotional health.
But it would also be incorrect to imply that anxiety is ONLY mental and emotional issue. No, there is a spiritual component to anxiety as well, which is important for us to recognize in order to treat anxiety holistically. And we find some wonderful spiritual guidance for dealing with our anxiety in our passage today.
For many of us, anxiety begins to mount when we feel as if our circumstances are spinning out of control. That’s the worst feeling in the world; some of you know what I’m talking about because you’re living through that kind of anxiety right now. But there is some good news in this scripture. God tells us that there are some choices we can make whenever we are feeling anxious. And there is real power at work whenever we make these choices.
Even when things feel like they’re spinning out of control, we can always choose two things:
- We can choose to be joyful.
- We can choose to be prayerful.
These two choices are part of the biblical prescription against anxiety. We can take action against our anxiety when we choose joy and when we choose prayer.