“It’s just been a stressful week. I need some me-time.”
“It makes me a little anxious when I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
“It’s finals week. I’m so stressed out!”
“I’m always worried about my kids, especially when they are sick. It’s a mom thing.”
“I’ve always been a worrier, my mom was too.”
“My in-laws are coming for the holidays. I’m nervous about what my mother-in-law will say about my food.”
Chances are you have heard or have said all these phrases, and others like them. They seem so natural, so normal, just something we feel – and say – without really realizing it. These situations and feelings are normal, they are a part of life, but I’m willing to bet that these feelings never stop at just a passing feeling.
That’s a problem.
God gave us our emotions. Fear and anxiety, therefore, are given to us by God and are meant to be used for good to glorify Him. This is the reason He gives us anything in life, for His glory.
So, where does the problem arise?
The problem is when the anxiety rules you.
God knows how prone we are to be ruled by things that are not Him, and that ultimately will not satisfy.
So, God has given us commands about anxiety in the positive and the negative.
The negative command:
“Do not be anxious” – it’s a command, and it’s very simply stated in Matthew 6, Luke 12, and Philippians 4. Do not do it.
Here’s the cool part, God does not give the negative command without a positive one, that is, something to do instead of being anxious.
The positive command:
Matthew 6 and Luke 12 say: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33 – emphasis added); “Instead, seek his kingdom…” (Luke 12:31a)
Philippians 4 says: “… but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
These passages give us real, practical ways to fight those anxious feelings when they arise.
We are to seek God’s kingdom, seek God’s righteousness, and pray.
Seek God’s Kingdom
What is God’s Kingdom? The phrase is used many times by Jesus in the gospels. It’s used in reference to eternal life in heaven with God, or to belonging to God’s people, the only way to attain eternal life in heaven with God through Jesus. In a nutshell, seeking God’s Kingdom is seeking the gospel. Preach the gospel to yourself! Remind yourself of who Jesus Christ is, the life He lived, the death He died to purchase your salvation, and His resurrection that is your hope!
Seek God’s Righteousness
What is God’s Righteousness? This is the action we make, the heart change we pursue, the path we take in light of the gospel. This is Sanctification, the pursuit of godliness, Christ-likeness, holiness. We need to continually pursue it. We fail, we forget, we sin. God is faithful, gracious, and merciful to His children. I find so much comfort then in the word “seek”. It has the idea of continual renewal, not in the thing being sought, but the seeker. We often need to be refreshed, reminded, to get back on track. It reminds me of the words from the hymn Come Thou Fount: “Bind my wandering heart to Thee… Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love”.
Countless pages, articles, posts, and books have been written on the importance of prayer. Here in the very Word of God, we have the direct command to pray rather than worry. Paul, through the gracious inspiration of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t stop at “pray” either. He says that those very things that we are anxious about we are to present before the throne of our Heavenly Father through prayer. The verse is very detailed about this prayer. It’s not just a prayer about the big things, no, it says “in everything“. Everything! Big, small, short-term, life-long, all of it! Pray to the Father about all your worries! With thanksgiving. What can a worried heart be thankful for? The fact that the God of the universe longs for you to trust to Him about your daily struggles, because He loves you! Prayer should not be intimidating. You have nothing to prove before God. He loved you, chose you, and sent His Son to die for you before you were even conceived! You did nothing to attain the position you have as His child, so your humble, mumbly prayer isn’t going to mess it up. Pray!
Need more convincing?
Let’s look at Philippians 4:6 & 7
“6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“
Verse 7 is a promise. It isn’t magic. It’s not saying, “Pray and God guarantees peace forever, no more anxiety for you!” No, not the case.
This is what the promise says, “Pray, trust me with this completely, and I will give you peace in this. This peace will guard you from anxiety, as you abide in Christ Jesus, through whom you come before my throne.” That’s a much richer promise than the magic-prayer version. This promise has a condition, we need to trust Him completely. When we worry, we are taking back some of that trust. We are telling God that we can’t trust Him fully, but need to keep some of this issue for ourselves. This is how anxiety rules us, because we try to be God, and we are not! We will fail every time.
Why can God promise us peace? Because He is sovereign and He is good.
God is perfectly in control of all things. Big and small. He’s got it. We can trust someone like that.
God is perfectly good, and as His children, He is working out all things in our lives for our good.
Why does God do all of this? The answer for this question is found in those last three words of Philippians 4:7, “in Christ Jesus”. Why did Christ come? To glorify God. It wasn’t about us! It’s always been about God’s glory. Thank goodness it’s not about us! If it was, these commands, and subsequent promise of peace would fall flat. Since everything is rooted in an eternal God, who is orchestrating all things to glorify Himself, these commands, and – more amazingly – this promise of peace is concrete.
It’s trustworthy, it’s guaranteed, it’s as good as done.
The next time you feel stressed out, worried, nervous, or anxious, think about this reality of promised peace, pursue obeying these commands, and actively put your trust our good God.
Feelings will come and go, but our God is steadfast and faithful.
Soli Deo Gloria