ENCOURAGEMENT: Worried Much?

Worried Much?
Posted on April 28, 2015  in Blog, Encouragement, Suffering

What should we do in those moments when the circumstances of life in a world, groaning (screaming?) as in the pains of child birth, press in around us in a crushing way?  We’ve all tasted anxiety and worry.  We’ve all caught ourselves sidetracked from the task before us because our imagination has led us down the path of all sorts of dark imaginings.  We’ve all experienced the elusiveness of sleep as we’ve tossed and turned on our beds through the early hours of the morning.
Writing from prison, to Christians in the city of Philippi, a Roman colony (i.e. not Beverly Hills) Paul writes a God-breathed exhortation to the believers living there:
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. – Philippians 4:6-7
Chances are you’ve memorized that verse at some point in your life as a follower of Christ.  You maybe clicked on this post hoping for a bit more. Something less trite, perhaps?  Maybe people have thrown this verse your way as sort of a Bible-pill to take a few times a day until your symptoms of worry are over, as Ed Welch puts its.
If we feel that way, it could be because we miss the last part of verse 5:
The Lord is at hand.  Do not be anxious about anything…
Without those five key words the conversation sounds like this, “I’m worried. The Bible says don’t be anxious.  Ok, I’ll try that.”  A little time passes, and we realize we’re still worried.  Here’s what we say, “I must not be trying hard enough.  I’ll try some more.”  Nothing happens.  Eventually we become anxious about not being anxious.  What this shows is that when we begin with ourselves and our effort, we compound the problem.
However, when we begin with the Lord, the outcome is entirely different. These verses help us to flip around the pair of binoculars we’ve been using to look at the circumstances of our lives.  Instead of viewing the details of our lives in a way that magnifies what we’re going through and minimizes the Lord, these verses call us to magnify the Lord, which transforms what we do with our troubles and what they do to us.
There are two ways we might understand the phrase the Lord is at hand.  The first relates to the immanence or nearness of God.  Because He is at our right hand we are not quickly shaken.  His presence strengthens, comforts, guides, sustains.  The second relates to the coming of Christ.  Our redemption is ever closer.  Jesus promises to return.  All things will be made new.
Approaching the resolve to be anxious about nothing must begin with the Lord, not our effort, which fits with the rest of vv. 6-7.  When we focus ourselves on the nearness of the Lord we will remember that He is the only one sufficient for us to cast our cares upon.  In fact, as 1 Peter 5:6-7 shows us, we’re invited to do just that.  As unrealistic as the all inclusive call to not be anxious about anything sounds, it’s matched by a wonderfully all inclusive invite to pray about everything, prayer marked by thanksgiving for the undeserved kindness we’ve been shown in Christ.
The result of this is a supernatural peace that is impossible for us to manufacture.  When faced with the reality of life in this world our only approach to knowing freedom from fear and anxiety is to humbly throw ourselves upon an unchanging, ever-present God.  When we do, He provides peace for us.  That peace is like a guardian that keeps out anxiety.
In Philippi, a daily visual for residents of the city would have been a Roman garrison, manned by centurions, whose responsibility was to guard the peace of the city.  That’s the picture here.  To use a modern analogy, the peace of God is like a secret-service detail that secures a perimeter around our hearts and minds to prevent worry and anxiety from penetrating.
So, worried much?  Replace anxiety about anything with prayer about everything as you look to God, humbly trusting Him to guard your heart and mind.

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