Pondering about life, spiritual matters, and where we fit in today’s crazy world…
by Mark Mathis
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, though prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7
This is amongst my favorite verses. Our church was surveyed recently to see what major problems they were dealing with. The number one problem parishioners noted struggling with was fear and anxiety. We live in a culture full of both.
I can see the evidence all around. Massive increases in prescription drugs for anxiety, burgeoning teen suicide rates, and pleas for help aired on social media would indicate this problem is growing.
However, the problem isn’t exactly new. I love this verse in Philippians. When reading it I’ve often wondered why Paul jammed the concept of THANKSGIVING into a passage about turning anxiety over to God?
It makes complete sense without this add on, right? Can’t we just cast our cares upon God and receive peace? Paul added an action item for us to this equation — “with thanksgiving.” When I cover up the “with thanksgiving” part it reads easier. Why the add on?
Paul was wise. He knew that thankfulness is incompatible with self-pity, envy, and anxiety. It’s near impossible to feel bad for myself when being thankful.
Thankfulness requires an outward focus, instead of our too often default focus on ourselves.
The last several months I’ve started my days by keeping my phone off. Instead, I journal three things I’m thankful for. (Today it was productive mornings, a warm electric blanket in a 55 degree room, and the bounding joy of a Vizsla visitor.) Just a few months of the journal habit and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s really hard to be anxious and thankful at the same time.
Of course, there is more to Paul’s equation. He also encourages looking to God in “every situation," and to not be anxious about “anything”. Both pretty tall orders.
I think Paul was onto something… these two verses are a pretty good blueprint for dealing with the daily worries of life.
Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness and reap great peace.
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