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.
Psychological descriptions and thoughts, I believe indeed can have their limitations, yet can be helpful with careful discernment under the category of “general revelation,” wisdom given from God to all of humanity. That’s simply an introduction to say, from what I hear about the term, I suppose there exists something of an obsessive compulsiveness in me. In some ways that can be good, but in other ways surely not.
My understanding of this term is something like we see a problem or potential problem, and we become obsessed with it, and then compelled to try to solve it. Good luck. There is only so much we can do to solve many of these problems, and we’re not going to run out of them, new as well as old, anytime soon. It’s just the way it is. But I’ve found that no amount of reasoning in itself sets me free from this. Although if I can find some comforting thought online, then I latch on to that. Instead what we really need is grace from God and what is prescribed in scripture. We need to think on those things and put them into pratice. Maybe practically as obvious as the nose on one’s face, but difficult, just the same.
The context of Philippians 4:6-7 is 4:4-9, and better yet, the entire book. But for the current problem, given a groundedness in Christ, the above passage quoted is sufficient.
When fear grips us we need to apply faith. The two are certainly mutually exclusive, and yet in the real world I find I can still be a person of a sincere and genuine, even if at times weak faith, yet still have fear nagging at the edges, and sometimes filling the heart and occupying the mind, and perhaps paralyzing, or at least debilitating it. We need to keep going back to first things, the basics, the passage above bringing us back to one important, helpful aspect of that.
And so we need to rejoice in the Lord, gentleness characterizing our lives, knowing the Lord is near probably both in terms of his presence by the Spirit, and also through the promise of his return. Then we’re not to be anxious, or to worry about anything. A tall order indeed. Instead we’re to pray about everything (see the New Living Translation, included in the link above). Yes, bringing our concerns to God, and giving thanks at the same time. We can surely come up with some thanksgivings which are especially appropriate given the nature of this kind of problem, or the matter of anxiety in general. Like for example, that God is faithful. That we can trust God to keep God’s word, the promises given to humankind in and through Jesus.
And then we receive the promise, the fulfillment of which will certainly be beyond us, but comes from God: that the peace of God which transcends or surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus, or as the NLT puts it, “as you live in Christ Jesus.” I’ve experienced this over and over again in my life, but to get from A to B seems particularly hard or even impossible when we’re stuck on A. That’s because we can’t do it ourselves. It’s something which God alone can do, and that in spite of our understanding, not because of it. It transcends or surpasses our understanding, which is certainly limited in itself, and of itself, not full of or even prone to faith, to having faith in God.
And then we’re to think on things which actually include the good we can find anywhere at all: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” And so it’s not like we stick our heads in the sand, and forget about the problem. But rather we seek to address it with the best information we can gather. And at least just as important, with a good, overall perspective. And this not just on the problem, but good thoughts in general.
To cap it off, the way of life in Christ Jesus taught and exemplified by Paul, we’re to work at putting into practice ourselves. Paul was a pattern man, a pattern person for all of us in Christ Jesus, one whose life in Christ is an example for us all. We need to find that center in Christ, and with that, the passion it brings, and live in that. With the promise that the God of peace will be with us.
So this is an exercise in looking at this one passage which seems especially appropriate for dealing with anxiety and worry, or an obsessive compulsiveness which all too easily and too often can be given over to fear. We simply need to carry on in our life in Christ Jesus, not letting the inevitable problems of this life define us, or finally undermine, diminish, or even destroy our faith. In fact such problems can indeed be an opportunity to exercise our faith, and ultimately strengthen it, honed in the fires of the trials of this life, as we learn to push back against such with the faith given to us in Christ Jesus.