Anxiety. I’ve written and rewritten this post today because there is so much to say about this. I feel like it is such a timely issue. Our culture and the “American dream” is constantly pushing us to achieve more. Social media has a way of subliminally fostering comparison which can leave us feeling inadequate. The upcoming holidays are a whole other issue – pressure to do, give, spend. Planned advent activities, making the holidays “special” – in doing are we doing too much and in not doing are we missing out and not doing enough. Finances, business and work issues, family issues, parenting, relationships, health… so many things we try to control and do our best with, yet are out of our ultimate control. The daily pressures and information overload around us every day are a breeding ground for anxiety, stress and fear. Yet, here is the spectacular truth that we find tucked in the wisdom of this verse: we do not have to be captive to anxiety.
This morning I was reading in Luke 11 & 12 and I picture Paul thinking back to these teachings from Jesus when he wrote these words to the church in Phillipi. Familiar verses we all know about things like not worrying what to say in a moment, being worth more than sparrows, God providing for us like the birds and the flowers, where your treasure is your heart is. Jesus spoke so much about worry, particularly regarding money, but also physical needs and wisdom. Here in Philippians Paul articulates the same message. We don’t need to be anxious about anything, because we have Christ. However, he goes a step further and gives a practical how-to for when we struggle. He emphasizes the defense strategy: We pray. We ask, we give thanks, and in doing so the peace of Christ protects our minds. We have to be intentional about guarding our hearts and minds against the lies of this world and Satan. And that is exactly what anxiety is… Anxiety is believing a lie.
Before I keep going, I want to address the argument I hear most often… the “it’s just who I am”, “that’s just my personality” or “this is just something I’m going to struggle with until heaven”. Please stop believing that lie. Where is your faith? Here is the truth of scripture: By the power of the Holy Spirit, the old man is dead to sin and the new man is raised to life in Christ, we are a new creation. We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are sons of righteousness. This is who we are, we are not defined by our past or personality, but by our adoption. So have faith and believe the truth declared in His word and watch the shackles fall. Now with that said, are some people more prone to certain mindsets, struggles and sins? Absolutely! But does that mean that God does not have power over it? Absolutely not! So does it mean your guaranteed freedom? Absolutely! Granted it may not be complete until heaven, but we can thank God that what he has promised, he is faithful to complete. Satan is the father of lies and it’s his primary weapon against us. He uses them to choke out our faith and sever our roots. Our primary defense is the truth. Knowing the truth and believing it. Like Jesus in the dessert, we must have the truth of his word written on our hearts so that we can be aware of these schemes that try to rob of us the fullness of the life we are given in Christ Jesus.
So with that said… anxiety. There are books upon books written on this subject and nothing here is new. We have all struggled with it. My 7 year old struggles with it. I have certainly struggled with it during different seasons. But God has taught me and is continuing to teach me so much about this topic. Paul says to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by PRAYER & SUPPLICATION with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God. If you begin to feel anxious, stop and pray. Ask God. In Luke he says if we ask, we will receive, if we knock the door will be opened. In James he says he gives wisdom to those who ask. Now, the take away here is not a formula. Our faith is relationship, not formula. The take away is to ask. To pray. And to do so with THANKSGIVING. That means asking with our eyes on the bigger picture, because we already have all we need in Jesus. When we do this, the miracle happens. Something that makes no worldly sense, defies logic and reason, and baffles the world watching. God’s peace comes over us. Anxiety falls away as the lies we believe are trampled by truth. The light leaves no room for darkness. You see, in Christ Jesus we have peace no matter what is going on in the world, because we are not of this world. That peace guards our hearts and minds, it protects us from the lies. Here is the truth: the Lord is near, this world is not our home, we are building treasures in heaven, God is working everything for the good (God’s good) of those who love him, there is nothing that we encounter that has not been sifted through his hands, He will provide us a way to stand up under any temptation, He is all powerful God and has control over nature, over sickness and disease, over death, He is a good God and he loves us as His children. So when your eyes look at any situation through that lens, when your “eye is full of light”, then there is no anxiety because you see the bigger picture, we have Jesus Christ and we have peace with God.
This is strategy though. Look at the next verse – vs 8-9 – “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Our minds and hearts are a battlefield, and we have to fight for truth. We do this by being diligent and intentional about what we feed it. Furthermore, as it says in James, we don’t just hear the word, we do what it says. We put it into practice. We also encourage one another and build each other up in truth. So be encouraged friend, you do not have to be burdened with anxiety. You are blessed through Jesus with peace and joy in all circumstances.