No More Anxiety
There’s no question we live in anxiety filled times – political unrest, terrorist threats, health-care uncertainties, job losses, and family issues, to name a few. So what do we do with all of our anxiety?
I have discovered that fear and anxiety are not identical twins, but first cousins. Fear is a reaction to an immediate real or imaginary event that injects a shot of adrenaline into the system to empower people to react. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a low-grade feeling of unease over an extended period over which we have little or no control. Both can be dangerous to our emotional and physiological health.
There is an answer to anxiety (I’m not talking about clinical anxiety here, but rather the daily worries that often plague us) that doesn’t get the publicity it warrants. Here it is – “Thanksgiving!” Scripture says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). The word translated “anxious” in this verse also appears as “takes a genuine interest” in Phil. 2:20. In the first verse, anxiety is something to be avoided, but in the second it is something that is applauded. (Paul says he has no one like Timothy.)
While there is a place for care and concern in matters for which we are responsible – there is a place where we carry a burden of concern that we have no business carrying!
Here’s one way of looking at it. Jesus in his parable of the seed and the soil talks about “the cares of this world” effectively choking out the “good seed” of the Word. We find ourselves carrying what He is far better equipped to carry and we do not respond appropriately to the injunction – “do not be anxious about anything, but.........!”
What then does it mean to relate our cares and anxieties to Him? Paul tells us specifically we should “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present (our) requests to God.” Prayer and petition are not the same thing although frequently our “praying” is limited to “petitioning.” To pray is to approach God in all His glory in an attitude of awe and worship making a statement concerning our knowledge and dependence on Him. I should “pray” first and foremost!
Then I should “petition” as I come before the Lord with “outstretched hands.” And I tell Him exactly what I’m concerned, worried, or anxious about knowing full well that He will respond appropriately.
So where are we? We have legitimate concerns and they are in danger of dominating our thinking. So instead of focusing on the trouble spots, we tell Him all about it knowing He will respond – AND WE LEAVE IT ALL WITH HIM.
One other thing. When I was a little boy I would ask my mother for something and she would say, “What else?” This invariably led to a kind of stand off until I said the “something else” she wanted to hear and that was “Please!” She would then say, as I ran off with my desires satisfied, “Stuart, what else?” Then I knew that two other little words were required –THANK YOU! She taught me that “please” and “thank you” are words of common courtesy! Majesty expects courtesy!
Prayer clears the way for petition and answered petition opens the door for thanksgiving. Paul described it as “the peace of God” and added “that (it) transcends all understanding” meaning it does not yield to rational explanation because it is outside the realm of human understanding – it’s a God thing! (See Phil. 4:9).
May I suggest in closing, that you try a very simple exercise? Read through Paul’s letter to the Philippians. You will observe that he was writing from prison, that he had gone through periods of hunger, financial difficulties, a life threatening illness, and periods of loneliness. Plenty of cause for anxiety! This is not a theological treatise written from an ivory tower. It is a practical, spiritual call to troubled believers to live in the conscious enjoyment of their life in Christ.
Paul’s circumstances and yours are no doubt dissimilar, but Paul’s God is your God and his experience of peace in troubled circumstances can be yours too!
Stuart Briscoe is a regular contributor to . He was born in England in 1930. After leaving school he embarked on a banking career, served in the Royal Marines during the Korean War, and at 17 years of age preached his first sermon. Since that time he has ministered on every continent, written more than 40 books, pastored a church for 30 years, and founded a media ministry called , which now broadcasts daily worldwide. He has been married to Jill Briscoe for more than 55 years and has three children and thirteen grandchildren.