Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Anxiety and worry are sins we tend to minimize. They seem nothing more than natural reactions. Maybe we even regard them as appropriate in view of life’s realities. But does anything strike more closely at the heart of faith? If we trust God, if we believe his promises, then do we worry about the very things he has promised to take care of? That’s exactly what we do, and Paul tell us to stop.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us not to worry about things like food or clothing. “Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.” In this part of his letter to the Philippians, Paul is dealing with a strained relationship between two ladies. And anxiety has a way of poking its nose into those situations, too, doesn’t it? We worry about how to fix it. We worry about being treated unfairly. We worry what the other person is saying about me. We worry about who is taking sides with whom. Maybe we worry that others will discover my own shameful part in the whole affair.
Such worries certainly spoil our joy. They also stand in the way of reconciliation. But worst is their toxic effect on faith. God calls us to replace such anxiety with trust. Trust the one who has cancelled the anxiety of sin and death by the giving them to his Son to deal with on the cross. Trust the one who invites the weary and burdened to come to him and find rest for their souls. Trust the one who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all. How will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Trust the one who has given us every reason for faith and joy.
How does such trust express itself? God will hear it in our prayers, won’t he? “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Instead of lugging our load of anxiety around and letting it destroy our joy, pass it off to God. Relieved of the burden, keep on living in joy.
Our Lord is happy to trade our worst for his best. With our fellow man he urges us to show our best. We let our gentleness be evident to all. But with our God we have an invitation to give him our worst. We unload our worry and anxiety on him with prayer. God will hear it, and he will do something about it. Then we are free to live our lives in joy.