Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I have to admit, I think about potential problems more than I probably should. Sometimes I catch myself thinking through entire situations that might occur before I snap back to reality. I try to convince myself it is only my want to be prepared, but in reality it is much more. It is worry about what others think of me and that somehow I do not measure up to those expectations. In many of these situations, I know I am doing the right thing, but I do not like the thought that someone else does not recognize this. Anxiety and pride become entangled into one jumbled mess of irrational feelings. As I read Chapter 9 of A Confident Heart for the online Bible study I participate in, I felt a breath of reassurance coming from Philippians 4:6-7.
The author, Renee Swope, breaks down Paul’s promise of peace into three steps (p. 171, A Confident Heart):
- Stop worrying – press the pause button on my consuming concerns.
- Start praying – open my mouth and tell God what I need.
- Keep thanking God – remind my heart of God’s goodness by thanking Him for what He’s done.
Paul’s words breath life into my weary heart. I crave the peace only God can give. I yearn for it in my life, yet my thoughts often betray me. These verses and the three steps it provides, call my heart to return to God. My mind will turn away from what others think or my perceived shortcomings and begin to once again focus on my God-given priorities and goals.
What is causing you to worry? Do you worry you are not pleasing those around you? Maybe you worry what you will do in light of your current difficulties. Or, perhaps you worry about all the what-ifs in life. I can relate to all of these, and more. However, I can also speak to the truth shared in Philippians. When I stop worrying, pray to God telling him my worries and needs and thank him for His goodness, I begin to feel peace. Peace that guards my heart and my mind. The tangents my mind takes into the world of what if begin to be replaced once again with God given thoughts and assurances.
In times of anxiety or depression, when my feelings of inadequacy threaten to overtake me, I gain reassurance from reading the Psalms. It allows me to see the worry of the psalmist taken from him and be replaced with the peace and joy only God can provide. One of my favorites is Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” There is the promise that God will fulfill His plans for me, because His steadfast love endures forever. The Psalmist cries out to God to be ever with him, for God created him of his own hands. What a beautiful and amazing promise! God WILL fulfill his purpose for us. He does love us forever. He will not forsake the work of his hands. Rest in that promise. Pray that promise. Live that promise. Allow the peace of God, which transcends all earthly understanding to guard your heart and mind. Let it permeate your innermost being and affect every thought and action.
Given these promises and the simplicity of the steps to achieve this peace, why do we still worry? Uncertainty and hardship are difficult to release into God’s capable hands. We forget the truth of Romans 8:28: “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We may not be able to see or understand the good, but it is there. It may not be easy, and it may never fully become apparent why these things happen, but God is working for the good of those who love him. He is trying to further train us in his love and faithfulness, if we allow him. While the situation causing anxiety may seem insurmountable, there is reason to praise God. Perhaps the only reason you can think of is our salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, but what an awesome thing for which we should give thanks!
As we close out the Thanksgiving holiday and are now anxiously preparing for the celebration of our Lord’s birth through Advent, I invite you to stop worrying, start praying and keep thanking God. Allow the peace of God to guard your heart and mind so that you might be the love of God to others this holiday season.
Because I love the hymns of the season, here is one of my favorites. Enjoy as your prepare your heart for the celebration of Christ’s birth!