“Be anxious for nothing, but it 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 4:6-7)
The bible tells us to be anxious about NOTHING, nothing in our lives warrants anxiety. So why are we anxious? Anxiety has been something I struggled with for as long as I can remember. I was an anxious kid, anxious teen and grew into an anxious adult. To this day, I remind myself of this scripture frequently. For people like me, that seem to have been born with an extra helping of anxiety, this can seem daunting and maybe even give you anxiety (ironic right?!)
What is anxiety? According to dictionary.com, “anxiety is distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.” The year 2020 has undoubtably brought on distress from fear of danger or misfortune. It seems the world has given us a surplus of things to be anxious about lately. Anxiety and depression are on the rise across America and throughout the world. Pandemic, race wars, riots, protests, economic collapse, fear of impending war, and all while we are being kept away from our friends and family. It can feel hopeless, but there is always hope.
The book of Matthew records Jesus own words, “…I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value then they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6: 25-17) Jesus asks us, why are you worrying? What does your worrying and anxiety accomplish? Nothing. We cannot change anything by worrying. If God feeds and cares for the sparrows, how much more does He care for us? We are His special creation.
Truly, Paul understood this about God. At the time when Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian church, Jesus had just been crucified. Believers in Christ were being hunted, imprisoned and put to death. Paul writes to the church from a Roman prison. A Roman prison is cold, dark, damp and daunting. The Romans would eventually behead him. Paul knew his future on Earth did not look good. He had been beaten and imprisoned on numerous occasions. But in his letter to the church of Philippi, he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) The faith of Paul is astounding and something to aspire to. Paul tells us to be anxious about NOTHING, but in all things rejoice. Why? Because the Lord is in control and Paul trusted Him.
So, how do we beat anxiety? “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.” We beat anxiety through prayer. We pray with a thankful heart, thankful for what we DO have. Pray to God for protection, healing, guidance, a miracle. When we do, a peace that only God can give, will guard our hearts and minds. Paul continues, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4: 8) If Paul and the early Christians could find things to rejoice about, surely we can today. Focus our hearts and minds on the good.
Trust the Lord. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29: 11)
I want to share a true story with you all, that someone else told me, that really spoke to my heart. A woman was on vacation in Jerusalem and sat down at an outdoor café. From her seat in the café, she could see a flock of sheep in a pasture. As an urban American, she had never seen a flock of sheep before. She loved watching them. A man with a shepherd’s crook came along and started herding the sheep down a narrow walkway. The man began to be rough with the sheep, aggressively herding them and the woman became rather alarmed. The sheep were bleating in distress that sounded like cries. The woman began to feel very uneasy. She asked the waiter at the café, “is it normal for shepherds to be that rough with their flock?” The waiter looked down into the pasture at the distressed flock and then back at the woman, “That is not the shepherd, that is the butcher.”
This story reminds us that Jesus is the good shepherd. He will not lead us down a path of destruction and death. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and sheep know me…” (John 10:14) Sheep know the voice of their shepherd and they trust him and they follow him. Jesus is our shepherd, trust Him and follow Him.