Devotional: Applying the Bible to my today.
Read: Philippians 4:4-9
By Halee Wood
Has anxiety claimed any space in your life? The first time I recognized anxiety in my life was after we lost our son. On a regular basis, my heart would race, and I was always mindful of the nearest exit. I had difficulty sleeping, making decisions and taking action when anxiety was high. These physical expressions of anxiety (in addition to worry) are, I believe, how most perceive anxiety, but anxiety can also be expressed through anger, trying to control, and avoidance/denial. When feelings of uncertainty take root within us, anxiety can come out in a variety of fashions; based on these insights, I have certainly dealt with anxiety throughout my life (hello control and anger!). So, I’ll ask again, has anxiety claimed any space in your life?
Often, when someone hasn’t “been there, done that,” their credibility to give advice is questioned, but Paul, the author of Philippians, has all the credibility to provide commentary and advice for difficult circumstances. Before writing this letter, he was attacked and arrested on accusations of being “a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among the Jews.” (See Acts 24:5). This letter on Christian living was written during his two years of house arrest while awaiting his trial.
Yes, Paul understood hardship and waiting…and waiting…and waiting and a lot of uncertainty, yet he tells his Philippian friends to “be anxious for nothing.” How? With words, thoughts, and actions.
- Words. “…in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Admitting our struggle can be representative of faith, not the lack of faith. You can’t heal a wound by pretending it’s not there. Tell God where it hurts, what needs you perceive, how you don’t understand, or even how you are lacking faith. Never stop going to Him. This is always the first step! In fact, it’s steps 1 through 1 million. Don’t forget to throw in the “thanksgiving” part of it. I often tell Him, “I don’t understand what You’re up to, but I believe it is good!”
With this step alone, the benefit is that the peace of God, which passes all comprehension, will guard your heart and mind. This step can be done when we’re feeling anxious, but it can also be used as a great preventative measure as well!
- Thoughts. “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Notice it doesn’t say “pretend like the issues and difficult circumstances don’t exist.” In Step 1, it makes it very clear that we need to acknowledge and share with God our needs and concerns; this verse highlights the things on which we are to allow our thoughts to dwell. If our thoughts continue circling around the need/circumstance, then let’s cycle back to Step 1, “God, I have no idea how to get my mind to dwell on the right, pure, lovely, etc. Help me!”
When I have laid before God my inability to dwell on these things, He has at times led me to actions to clear my mind or on a few occasions He has actually provided me with a new and unique perspective of a seemingly “bad” circumstance, showing me how He is using it for good. Bounce back and forth between Step 1 and Step 2; actually, allow them to be intertwined.
- Actions. “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things…” (Philippians 4:9)
Still today, we can study and follow the ways of Paul; he had studied and followed the ways of Jesus…so we have at least two great examples, and I hope you have other real-life inspirations of this type of living!
What are some things you see in Paul’s life that we can practice? Above all else, I see loving, obeying God, serving, and sharing the good news of the gospel in every circumstance, with a heavy reliance on Steps 1 and 2 above. In tomorrow’s devotional, we’ll focus more on Paul’s perceptions and actions. The result of this step – “the God of peace will be with you.”
This “go-to” plan for anxiety is not a microwave solution (though it can be). It is one that, when practiced over time, creates humility and a reliance on Christ, and when we experience His faithfulness over and over, it builds our confidence and trust in Him – which, in turn, makes us more likely to feel peace and joyful anticipation rather than anxiety at the onset of the unknown.
- When you are feeling anxious, how is it most likely to reveal itself? Through worry, anger, control, denial or something else?
- So that you have it available next time anxiety or uncertainty creeps into your mind, make a list of things you can dwell on that are honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent or worthy of praise. Incorporate this with a good old fashioned gratitude list!
- Is there an area of concern that you need to take before the Lord right now? Take a moment to do that. After telling Him your concerns and needs, reflect to Him the items on your list, then call a friend who has been a good example of godly actions to talk about what you’ve learned and to thank them for being an effective witness in your life.
Dear Heavenly Father, we submit any anxiety we have to You. Give us wisdom to identify the things we need to lay before You and the wherewithal to dwell not on our needs but on Your faithfulness and all that is good. Give us rest for our hearts and minds and the endurance necessary for the days ahead. We love and trust You. In Jesus name, Amen.
Halee Wood is a Certified Life Coach, Speaker and Writer. Connect with her at Run the Race Together.