How are you dealing with anxiety, fear and worry lately? As we SIP, some of you, maybe for the first time, are feeling overwhelmed. I read this week that 36% of Americans have said the pandemic has had a serious impact on their mental health. And 31% say they are sleeping less. For me, there have been lots of good days but some hard ones too. The problem with worry is that it is the greatest thief of peace and joy. And while fear and anxiety are reigning, they don’t have to be winning. I want to offer three ways you can worry less this week.
First, read these powerful verses slowly:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Pray in every situation.
“Why pray when you can worry?” a pastor once said. We love to worry! I feel like I always need something on my mind to worry about. But, when we worry, we are pulled in every direction and strangled emotionally, mentally and even physically. In these verses, the Apostle Paul says we don’t have to live this way because, “The Lord is near.” The Lord is always close to his people and always hears their cries (Deuteronomy 4:7b, Psalm 145:18). And because God is near, he will always hear and respond to your prayers. But be careful, God answers your prayers in his timing and in his way. So, be prayerful instead of angry. Be prayerful instead of anxious. Be prayerful in any and all situations. And when we pray, God promises to give us his very own peace. A peace that will be like a protective force guarding your heart and your mind. God’s peace, God’s shalom, is wholeness and well being.
If we are going to worry less, Paul says we must think differently. That means we need to use our minds to “calculate, process, give careful thought, consider, and let our minds dwell on the right things.” As we SIP, instead of taking time to think deeply, we’d rather watch Netflix. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as we are spending some time sitting alone with God and our thoughts. Why? Because worry is often wrong thinking. It’s that mental playlist of all the things we’re worried about that are on repeat in our minds. And Paul lays out a list of virtues, to get us thinking in the right direction. He says, whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent or praiseworthy, think about those things. When our minds are filled with good things, we don’t dwell on the bad. When our minds are filled with the right things, we’ll worry less. Even if you are not a Christian, you know this is true. Thoughts become actions, actions become habits, habits become character, and character becomes your future.
Put into practice all you’ve learned from God.
You can pray and think all you want, but if you are not living it out, it’s worthless! Christianity is not just about praying or deep thinking, it’s boots on the ground, real life stuff. It’s lived out. It’s practical. It’s love in action. So, Paul points to himself and says, copy me or find someone who lives this way and walk with them. This is what discipleship is all about. Yes, pray in every situation, but then live your life as someone who trusts God. Yes, use your mind to think rightly and differently than the world thinks, but the proof of that is your lifestyle. This is why when we disobey God we often lose our peace and joy. This is why when we are not living for God, we are more anxious.
Final thought, “With the peace of God guarding you and the God of peace guiding you, why worry?” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever need to see a Christian therapist or take medication to help. This doesn’t mean that in every single moment, all the time you’ll feel God’s peace and joy. As a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit living in you. He’s ready to help you everyday to pray, think, and live rightly. And over time, what you’ll find is you’ll worry a whole lot less.