commitment to not be anxious

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

I remember years ago there was a well known (in some circles) pastor and writer who hosted a radio call in program, in which people could ask him questions. Once I called in out of desperation. I had to know better, but logic is sometimes lost in the midst of pain, so I asked him if it’s possible just to make a commitment not to sin, and then follow through. Immediately I think (or hope) I could see the fallacy. We will sin in this life; there is no sinless existence until the life to come in God’s love. We begin an existence now in which we’re set free from sin’s rule over us. Christian theology does vary here, and I struggle a bit on that myself. I believe we will sin, but that we don’t have to (see 1 John 1 and 2). Romans 7 is not to be a part of the Christian life, but it will be to the degree that we fail to live out what is true of us as those no longer under law, but under grace, and as those who are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.

Anxiety is not necessarily a sin, but at least it can come from the sin of failing to trust in God, something God takes very seriously as we see in scripture again and again. People have conditions of anxiety disorder which prevent them from fulfilling responsibilities. They need professional help and medication at times, to help address physiological factors which contribute to that, although I think it’s best to go with natural means as much as possible along with good, preferably biblical and psychological counseling. So I’m not sure we can just make a clear-cut distinction and be sure that some of our own struggle isn’t in some measure simply due to living in a broken world in which we share in the brokenness. We won’t be put together, completely whole until the resurrection to come, when all the brokenness of life is gone.

But until then we do need to seek God’s counsel and grace to deal with what anxiety we have. Do not worry, or don’t be anxious are both viable translations (Mounce). I guess compared to the general population, I might be termed a chronic worrier. My wife is not, and that is both a blessing to me, and a challenge, since she can’t empathize, and yet provides for me a good example in what it means to completely trust in the heavenly Father. I like either translations for different reasons. To not worry implies an action, while not being anxious implies a condition. So what has to be addressed is what we are failing to do. Simply not to worry is dependent on us learning to completely trust in God.

The idea of being committed to not being anxious is okay insofar as we accept the limitations of this life. Basic to this is simply the commitment to address it as best we can, according to God’s directive, indeed imperative here in the Philippians passage above, and as we’re told in other parts of scripture, as well. So the commitment strictly speaking is not to be anxious free, but to simply do what we’re called to do to address the problem. And this is a good passage to address what we know might cause us anxiety, temptation to worry, rather than after we’re overcome by it. But both. And keep reading scripture, praying, and asking others to pray for us.

God’s help to us in this life in and through Jesus.

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