Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT)
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
We all have our own unique way of dealing with anxiety. Some might chew their nails (ew!). Others might twist their hair. Still, others might deny its existence and not recognize the effect and toll that anxiety is taking on them. I remember such a time. Sitting in the doctor’s office smiling and joking, I was trying to convince myself and the doctor that anxiety or depression was for other “weaker” people. Yep. My cavalier demeanor did not work. “You’ve got anxiety”, the doctor said. Then as if those words gave me the freedom to finally admit it, the tears flowed from my eyes.
Instinctively I knew it was true. But doggone it. I did not want to cry. Did anxiety make me less of a Christian? No. Christ experienced anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what it was like to be under great stress, but He also knew how to deal with anxiety. So did Paul.
Being in Christ has benefits that often go beyond our realization. Paul reveals yet another benefit to those who are willing to live by God’s principles. The passage above opens up with words we are familiar with—kind of like, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Loved the song, but really had a disdain for the simplicity of that phrase. IT IS NOT THAT EASY.
Or, is it? Paul certainly experienced anxiety. Beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, stonings, persecution. So I would say he is an authority on the subject. And while sometimes the simplicity of the solution can make us feel that it won’t work, it is not until you take the medicine that you discover whether the solution is effective or not.
Paul invites us to take an offensive and defensive approach in verses Philippians 4:6-8:
- Offensive: Come to God for help and prepare your mind.
- Humility – Admit our need (:6). It takes guts and humility to admit we are anxious or concerned about something. It means that we know we cannot handle it on our own. The world around us does not want to give credit to anyone else and can view faith as a crutch. But the One Who created us knows best. He did not create us to be independent, but dependent upon Him in a beautiful relationship. We were never supposed to be enough on our own.
- Gratitude/be thankful (:6). Gratitude is an elixir that causes joy to bubble up. Yes, even being grateful for that thorn in our flesh that has a way of giving us perspective and takes our eyes off of self and puts it on the One Who is over every struggle we face.
- Fix our thoughts (:8). While our thoughts can be overwhelming at times, especially when we are burdened with emotional turmoil, the truth is that we are in control of our thoughts. Pray and think on God’s truth, what is honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable. This will require kicking out negative thinking with that good stuff. But sometimes it will be a major fight that will require a defensive approach, too.
2. Defensive: God’s promises have to be clung to for us to get the victory. Here are a few that have helped me:
- God is a God of a sound mind. (“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7). If God hasn’t given us fear, who has? Ourselves or the enemy of our souls. And God is all-powerful. He is well able to give us a sound mind and to help us to overcome. Notice, I did not say that we are able – but He is as we rely on Him.
- We have the mind of Christ. (“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16). Right now we have the mind of Christ. Right now. Taking God at His word, we silence the thoughts that don’t line up with His truth. But we have to be well-acquainted with His truth in order to debunk the myths pumping through the media and our brains.
- Renew our minds. (“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2). This is not a passive activity. We will have to “suit up” to face the battles of the mind and form a battle plan or accountability, if necessary.
- We’ve got it all. (“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3). We don’t know how blessed we really are. The deceiver has blinded our eyes and distracted us with troubles. We walk through a minefield on a daily basis, but God’s word guides us through every single mine we face. Through knowing Him, His character and His Word, we always know His intentions and purposes are for our good and His glory. We can cast doubt away and walk in truth.
Recently, one of my daughters shared how she finally overcame depression after a 10-year long battle. Six of those years she said she actually fought it. It felt impossible and seemed like there was no way out. But God. As she saturated her mind in God’s word, replaced lies with His truth, and faced depression/anxiety head-on, she finally overcame. What a sweet day that was! Although anxiety or depression can come back again, she knows how to defeat it now.
In the end, freedom in our minds is a choice. One man can be in prison, yet free. Another man can have freedom yet be imprisoned in his own mind. Freedom does not come from our circumstances, but from God’s word. So many thoughts flow through our mind, influencing us and sometimes becoming a part of our mindset, making it hard to shake negative thoughts and adopting as truth.
In that season of my life when I was under great duress, I had anxiety and overcame it by the grace of God. But guess what? anxiety rises again and again in this crazy life. But now I know how to deal with it appropriately. Like Paul said, we press on. And on and on. Don’t grow weary in well doing, friends. In due time, we will reap a harvest!