I love the book of Philippians. I’ve probably studied it more than any other book in my Bible, and it’s all marked up and underlined and circled and notated because it seems like every time I turn there God teaches me something new.
Last fall, when I was facing a very real battle with fear and anxiety, God brought me back to Philippians 4 once again. I don’t know how many times I’ve read this passage– I have memorized most of it at one time or another– but last October is when I really came to an understanding that here was a prescription for worry, fear , and anxiety.
Sometimes I get frustrated by believers (and even Scripture passages) that say things like “trust God” but don’t explain how I’m supposed to do that. I’m a practical girl. I want to trust God, but I need to know what that looks like. I think for a lot of years I thought of faith as a satisfied, contented feeling of happy trust. Like that awesome feeling I have always had when my dad hugs me. The problem is, I seldom have that feeling when I really need to have faith. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t force myself to feel happy and contented and satisfied. Especially when I’m scared, worried, and being attacked by an enemy with a seemingly endless supply of fiery darts of doubt.
That’s why it was such a beautiful thing when God brought me to Philippians 4 and showed me that here is God’s way to combat and overcome fear. Over the next two blog posts, we will look at how to find the peace of God, and how to know the God of peace. God’s peace, that passes all understanding, is available to us today as we seek to obey God’s instructions in this passage.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious 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.
Step One: Faith Rejoices
How do you rejoice when you’re in a deep valley, when you’re surrounded? This verse is clear that we are not just to rejoice when things are awesome. We are supposed to rejoice always— which means in sorrow, in fear, want, in desperation. This is audacious rejoicing. It is opening up my mouth and singing every song about joy I can think of out loud even when I’m scared. It is turning up the music and dancing around the kitchen with my daughter. It is writing down a list of who God is and what He has done, that I may have something to focus on. It is saying out loud, “Lord, I praise you for this trial.” It is praying for joy and then living like I have it until I start to feel it. This joy comes from the Lord, and it is a great strength when we are weak.
Step Two: Faith Stays Calm
I had to do a little bit of word study on the word reasonableness up there in the quoted Scripture. It is translated multiple ways in different version of Scripture: gentleness, gentle spirit, moderation, graciousness, humility, forbearance, fairness, modesty. All of these words speak to me of the quietness of faith. In a hard time, in a battle, in fear, faith is still gentle and compassionate and gracious. How convicting is this? I know that I am so prone to freak out on my kids when I’m experiencing worry. Instead I need to pray for God to set a watch over my lips. I need to do all those things I tell my kids to do when they’re upset and about to lose their temper– to take a deep breath, to count to ten, to get some exercise, to pray. I am reminded of the verse In gentleness and quietness is your strength. And of the loving example of Christ, who opened not His mouth even when accused. If I pray in the morning for God to guard my lips, He never fails to remind me when I’m about to open them to say something unkind or cutting or angry. I have also found that quiet music playing in my home helps me to stay calmer.
Step Three: Faith Gives Thanks
Gratitude is a major antidote to worry. “Count Your Blessings” isn’t just a good hymn. It is a way of life that protects us from fear and anxiety as we discipline ourselves to bring to mind the good things the Lord has given us. Speak your gratitude out loud, or write it down. If you can’t think of anything to be thankful for, turn to Psalm 103 and thank the Lord for His benefits. Turn to Ephesians 1 and thank Him for the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. Nothing can change these things. Make a list. Make a poster. Take pictures of special gifts and post them where you’ll see them. Write a note to a friend and tell her why you thank God for her.
Step Four: Faith Brings Every Request to God
Pray! Pray pray pray pray! Pray out loud and pray silently. Pray for an hour and pray for ten seconds. Pray alone and pray with a friend. Pray every time the worries come to your mind. Tell God you are casting your cares on Him and that you believe He will care for you. Ask Him to help your unbelief. Tell Him every single little thing that is filling you with fear and worry. And enlist the help of other prayer warriors. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again here– prayer is the thing in my life that has made the biggest difference in my walk with God.
As we do these things– as we rejoice, be still, give thanks, and pray– God promises that His peace will guard our hearts and minds. Isn’t that what we need when we are in the valley, in the battle, in the desert? Something to guard our hearts and our minds? This peace– it is beyond understanding, and it shines out to the world around us as God works in our lives in the midst of our sorrow, our fear, and our anxious moments.
Friend, you do not have to give in to fear, to worry. Trust and obey. Test your good Father, and see if He will not pour out His peace on you as you walk in obedience to His good plan.