We’ve learned with Elijah, we learned from Jesus, in this final post, we’re listening to what the great Apostle Paul has to say about managing anxiety. He should know a thing or two. He was physically beaten many times, shipwrecked, and experienced all sorts of dangers, whilst facing the daily pressure of concern for all the churches he was serving (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).
In the passage we’re going to look at Paul is writing from prison, most probably in Rome. He had every reason to be panicked but he was at peace. God was using his confinement in chains for great good, spreading the gospel far and wide (see Philippians 1:12-13; and 4:22). God always works for good (sometimes in ways we can’t as easily see) for those who love him (Romans 8:28), even in scary times like these.
Philippians 4:4-9 is another go-to passage of mine when the angst of anxiety starts to get me down again. Here are four final insights. I’m particularly thankful for David Murray’s observations here from his excellent book, The Happy Christian.
Worry about nothing by praying about everything. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God”. Get serious about prayer! Make a prayer list and cast your cares upon Him, trusting God to do right with them.
It says “with thanksgiving”. Develop the attitude of gratitude because it will give you altitude; a better perspective on your circumstances, as you rise above them remembering God’s past and present goodness. Count your blessings! Start every day thanking God you’re alive, have a roof over your head, food in your belly, friends, family, and above all God in your life, salvation, the certain hope of heaven.
At this time, I’m thankful for the amazing NHS workers, risking their lives to serve. I’m thankful to all the teachers who kept working in the germ factories we call schools. I’m thankful for our scientists, already able to work on a vaccine. I’m thankful to supermarkets adapting to better care for the elderly. And so on.
Retrain your brain. You can do that you know. It’s called brain plasticity (Google it). Manage what your mind feeds on, like what you read and watch on TV/online. Think about what’s:
(a) true: tune in to truth-tellers not muck-spreaders; carefully screen the news feeds your reading and for how long, especially now.
(b) noble: seek out books, art and movies that inspire awe and worship.
(c) right: celebrate courageous actions, hardworking parents, loving fathers, devoted mothers and so on.
(d) pure: avert your gaze from filth.
(e) praise: think constructive not destructive. Try not to speak negatively about anyone or anything.
The more you try to think this way the more you will, and the less anxious you’ll be.
That’s not really in the passage (Paul talks about it in his other letters though). Break the power of financial anxiety by trusting God and giving generously. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not encouraging anyone to get into debt. I don’t believe God blesses disorder. Get your finances under control, and then be generous with what you have. We cannot serve God and money but we can serve God with money. There are a lot of people struggling financially right now, especially the self-employed. They could do with you help.
If you put all this “into practice” God, through Paul in verse 9 promises, “the God of peace will be with you.” That’s a promise you should take to the bank and cash.
May God help all of us overcome anxiety, and may Christ followers especially shine out as beacons of grace and peace at this time.