Yesterday we learned that we are to rejoice always, and that joy is a personal choice to react to life’s uncertainties. Today, we look at the next two Scriptures in Philippians, that deals with anxiety. 18% of all American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. In the last decade anxiety disorders have jumped more than 1200%. Psychologist Robert Leahy says that today the average high school student has the same level of anxiety as an average psych patient in the early 1950’s.
Those are staggering statistics in a world where Jesus has already provided the solution: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
“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.” (Phil 4:6-7) In today’s passage, we first see the problem: anxiety. The Greek word used in this verse is “merimnaó”, which can be translated into “worry, anxious, care”. The Greek word is made up of two words which literally means “to tear or divide the mind”. James says that one whose mind is divided (double-minded) is “unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).
So we are told to be “anxious for nothing”. Jesus said the same thing (Matt 6:25-27). So instead of being anxious, we are to take everything to God in prayer: “by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. The word “prayer” in this verse comes from the Greek From proseuchomai; which is translated both as prayer and worship. As we raise our hands to worship and are thankfully putting our thoughts on the Lord, it is impossible to be anxious about our circumstances because that’s not where our thoughts are — they are on Jesus and all that He has done for us.
After we worship the Lord, we make supplication (or make requests) known to God with thanksgiving. It’s not that God doesn’t already know our need, but this is the opportunity we have to conform to His will and to let ours go, so that we are humbly laying our burdens at His feet. As we lay down our burdens, or cast them on Him, we praise Him for giving us the ability to lay them down because He cares for us (1 Pet 5:7).
And when we make the choice to not be anxious, but to take everything to God in prayer with worship, make requests for His will to be done, and be thankful for all that He has and will do, then we receive His promise: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”. The Lord has always promised Himself as a sanctuary from worry: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Is 26:3).
I’m reminded of a hymn we sang growing up, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”.
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!