We live in anxious times. We live in depressing times. We need social interaction and encouragement, yet many are confined to isolation. Fear is thriving.
The Apostle Paul could relate to our anxieties. He suffered shipwrecks, imprisonments, countless beatings with whips and rods, vicious attacks from enemies, hunger, exposure to harsh weather. Upon top of all these physical persecutions, he writes about the “daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Paul endured personal pain and spiritual struggle with his “thorn in the flesh.” He repeatedly sought the Lord to remove it, but was told “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:6-10). Paul had anxiety about his own death (Philippians 1:21-25).
If Paul was so well acquainted with anxiety, why did he counsel us in Philippians 4:6 to “not be anxious about anything.” Are we sinning when we feel anxiety over situations? When you consider Paul’s statement in the context of Paul’s life, and specifically the book of Philippians, we are able to understand what Paul is teaching.
Paul understands we are going to have anxiety, thus he is concerned with what we do with it. He had it! Even, the Lord endured times of heightened anxiety and stress (Matthew 26:36-46).
We must not let it rule our hearts; stealing our joy and peace. Paul maintained joy in the Lord despite his many persecutions and anxieties (Philippians 4:4). We cast our anxieties on the Lord through prayer making our requests known to a loving God who cares (Philippians 4:6). Because of our relationship with the Lord, peace, rather than anxiety, guards our hearts (Philippians 4:7).
We should meditate on pure and virtuous things that bring comfort, joy, and delight to our souls (Philippians 4:8). It is through practicing these things that Paul maintained the peace of God through all of his anxieties (Philippians 4:9). The same joy and peace can be possessed by Christians today in the midst of our anxiety.
You are going to have anxiety and stress in this world. But don’t let it rule your heart and steal your joy and peace. Paul didn’t condemn having anxiety, he condemned Christians letting it rule their heart
Josh Kethum preaches at Seven Oaks Church of Christ.