How to Not Be Anxious (Philippians 4:6-7)
By: Kia Stephens
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
I could feel it inside me. Tension in my upper back, shortness of breath, and knots in my stomach all alerted me to the presence of anxiety. It was 3:00 AM and I lay in bed, eyes wide open as I stared up at the ceiling.
My mind was flooded with an endless series of “what if’s” drifting from one area of my life to the next. I tried praying but it only seemed to anchor my thoughts further into panic. I let my mind aimlessly drift through social media images but that, too, proved to be ineffective. Then, in a ninth-hour-effort I turned to the well-known anecdotal verse for anxiety: Philippians 4:6-7.
It reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I read it once, but it didn’t seem to impact my present reality one bit, so I read it again and again. I reasoned repetition might somehow bring about my ability to follow this command from the apostle Paul.
Reciting these words did serve to fixate my mind on something other than my worry, but it simultaneously left me with questions for Paul. What about extremely unfair and difficult circumstances? What if your life is in danger? How are you not supposed to be anxious in every situation?
After all, Paul did not say, “Try not to be anxious… just do your best to not be overcome with anxiety.” No, he gave a straightforward and loophole-less command. Paul was not entertaining sob stories or reasons why there should be a caveat to what he wrote. He simply said, “Do not be anxious.” Maybe you too have been left with some unanswered questions pertaining to Paul’s command.
The word anxiety means to be pulled apart in many directions, leaving a person divided and distracted. Life’s circumstances have a way of doing this to all of us and anxiety seems like a natural response. Here in Philippians, however, Paul is saying we can make a conscious decision not to be this way. He is saying we can choose to do something when anxious thoughts occur.
Although he left us with no easy outs, he did tell us what we should replace our anxiety with. Instead of being anxious, in every situation we are to pray, petition and thankfully present our request to God. Although difficult to do, when we feel anxiety in our body, we are to rephrase our anxious thoughts as prayers and petitions with thanksgiving.
If my anxious thought is, “I am worried about the loss of income.” I could choose cast that anxious thought on God by praying, “God, thank You for being a provider and more than capable of meeting my every need. I believe that you are able to direct me to a new source of income for my family and I ask that in the meantime, you would provide for our needs.”
Rephrasing our words so that they are in line with Philippians 4:6-7 is an act of faith. Choosing to pray like this forces us to intentionally place our faith in God, whom we cannot see, rather than our circumstances, which are often overwhelmingly visible.
Although this is difficult to do, as believers we have not been given an option. This is how we have been commanded to deal with anxiety. We govern ourselves in this way knowing that even if God does not answer our prayers in the way we think He should, He still loves us immensely and is intimately concerned about the details of our lives.
What anxious thoughts are robbing you of the experience of God’s peace? Think of what is making you anxious and decide right now to stop and pray, casting that anxiety to the Lord. Give your worries over to Him today and allow his peace to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
Kia Stephens is a wife and homeschooling mama of two who is passionate about helping women know God as Father. For this reason, she created The Father Swap Blog to be a source of encouragement, healing, and practical wisdom for women dealing with the effects of a physically or emotionally absent father. Each week through practical and biblically sound teaching she encourages women to exchange father wounds for the love of God the Father. For more encouragement download Kia's free audio message, “Knowing God as Father.” Additionally, you can connect with Kia on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest.