Giants in the Land: Worried Sick
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.
This text is from a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi. Paul wrote it while he was in prison for being a Christian. The church Paul wrote to was in a town that similarly threatened people daily for being Christians.
If I were to put myself in either of these positions, I would say that they are tailor-made for worry. Paul must have been a man who knew anxiety. The church in Philippi were people who must have been constantly battling fear.
Even though we are neither imprisoned or under constant threat of oppression, most of us are worried. Low levels of fear are our constant companions. We cannot help but wonder how Paul and the church in Philippi were able to cope with their anxiety.
In this text, the apostle Paul gives us very practical steps toward peace. He says, “Do not worry about anything!” There is no circumstance that is an exception to his encouragement. When we realize this is a man writing from prison, who had been beaten and flogged, shipwrecked and pelted with stones (read in 2 Corinthians 11 for the full list), we can’t help but wonder how he can tell us this is possible.
Pray. That is the simple answer. The truth is that we all do that. But more often than not, our prayers are simply rehashing our worries toward the ceiling. They usually leave us more worried than we started.
So, Paul is more specific. Begin by rejoicing. Begin by focusing upon the strength and power, majesty and love or our God. Ultimately, we need to bring God into our worries. To do that, we need to recognize the fullness of God in rejoicing.
Then, we are to pray in supplication and thanksgiving. Supplication has a sense of honesty. We are to pray honest about ourselves and our circumstances. We are to pray honest about who God is. Thanksgiving means taking time to thank God for the ways we are blessed. Both of these together put the anxiety within the perspective of a God who blesses us.
Finally, we are to present our requests to God. We are to lay at Jesus’ feet the thing that otherwise would be causing us anxiety.
The result of this is peace. It is peace of not trying to control things on our own. It is the peace of the presence of God in the same space as our anxiety. It is peace that passes understanding.
Jesus, we begin by praising you for who you are. We praise you for your grace and love toward us. We confess the anxiety in our lives. We confess the ways that fear whispers into our lives and keeps us on edge. Step into the place of our worry. Open our eyes to the ways your blessings reveal your love all around us. Shift us to begin to lean upon your love for us. Thus, open us to begin to know your peace… peace that floods us and washes our anxiety away. In Jesus’ name, amen.