In Christ I can be anxious for nothing, prayerful in everything and thankful for anything.
Why is that, you ask? It can all be found in Philippians 4:6:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
This is a difficult verse to live by. Mainly, at least in my case, it seems I tend to be anxious about everything and go to God after I have tried to fix life problems on my own … and have failed.
The first thing to note about this verse, though, is that it isn’t a life suggestion, it’s a command. “Do not be . . . ” doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for another interpretation.
But why is it hard to live by? Because this entire verse is about trusting God and not ourselves. And being prideful humans, we like to be in control. Except when life feels out of control and we can’t figure out how to control it when we never could in the first place!
Anxiety comes from being so entirely consumed with something that it is hard to function, and you can only see through the lens of that singular thing.
Anxiety can come from anything. It could be any of the following:
- the thought of your next drink
- an inflated self-ego and worrying about keeping your body fit or your outfit on point
- doubt or a lack of self-worth
- lustful, gluttonous, or materialistic desires
- anything that gives you a false sense of satisfaction or security
The reason that being anxious contradicts the teachings of Scripture and the way Christians should live their lives is that we should be entirely consumed with Jesus.
Now, disclaimer, I am aware anxiety can be a medical or psychological disorder and it is something people might need treatment or therapy for. The anxiety I am discussing here is more of the generic worry the average person deals with on a day-to-day basis.
So, why is all this important? Why should we care? So what, I enjoy eating too much chocolate or binging too much Netflix or I have to get home in time for the football game on Sunday… Why should that affect my relationship with Jesus?
Because whatever I hold, whatever I stare at, whatever consumes me is what I worship. It comes down to idolatry.
If something other than Jesus is . . .
where I find my satisfaction
where I go for comfort
where I find my security,
something that fills every thought of the day…
That something is an idol, or a false god.
Satan would have us believe we don’t have an idolatry problem in the contemporary world because we don’t bow down to physical, hand-made “gods” or pray to figurines. But he would have us believe there’s no problem because it keeps us blind to the idols we are bowing down to.
And when that idol fails to give us true peace and joy, that’s when we become worried. Or, if that idol is threatened, such as the god of money, we can easily start to panic if that’s where we have been worshiping and finding security. If that idol disappears on us, we’re in trouble.
It comes down to this: If I let my heart be anxious about something, I begin to worship that something.
What am I worshiping other than Jesus?
What gives me anxiety?
Am I stressed about making enough money?
Am I stressed about grades or work? Perhaps I am bowing down to the god of achievement or power or success.
Am I stressed in my relationship? Do I bow down to the false god of romantic love or sex?
Am I relying on alcohol or nicotine or drugs to relax me?
Am I obsessed with myself? Is everything in my life revolving around the god of me?
Once we can identify the god we have been bowing down to, we can remove it from our lives… And we can begin to wholeheartedly worship the One. True. God.
At our core, our flesh is weak, our hearts lead us astray, and we have an idolatry problem. Our carnal nature is sinful and the last thing we want to do is submit to a holy God who is in control of the universe.
Because we don’t want to admit our lack of control, our mortality or our weakness.
We don’t want to humble ourselves and say, “God is God and I am not.”
Isn’t that what prayer is? Going to God in humble reverence and letting him be the one in the driver’s seat? There is a reason the second half of Philippians 4:6 regards prayer as the key to canceling out anxiety.
What’s more, God wants us to talk to him. He desires a relationship and knows our struggles because he is all-knowing, and he is the one who can provide peace and joy when we face difficult circumstances.
The author of Hebrews says Jesus, our high priest, is the perfect one to draw close to when we face trials.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-15).
Since we are able to talk to God about everything and actively seek his purpose in our prayers, he responds and with evidence of his presence and his will unfolding in our lives (James 4:8). God is never far away from us; we’re the ones who have moved away.
Therefore, we should have confidence that God is listening when we pray, and he cares for us, which should make us thankful before he even answers – whether his answer is a yes, no, or wait.
Being thankful guards us against an attitude of selfishness, which has always been a popular false God.
In Christ, we find contentment. Answering anxiety with prayer and thankfulness allows us to experience God’s peace. Once we admit the inability to control our lives and give them over to God, we don’t have to worry anymore. And that is more satisfying than a false god can ever give.
Copyright © 2019 by Melody Siebenmann.
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