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.

the word sorting out the clutter of life

…others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Mark 4

Life is challenging. There ends up being much more on our plate than we asked for, or imagined could be. We can feel overwhelmed, and hardly know what to do, or which way to turn.

Jesus’s parable here seems suggestive to me in this. We need to remain in the word, come what may. That ultimately means in Jesus, but it definitely also means in the written word, scripture, the Bible.

What can easily become the worries of this life will be present, but they need not choke out the word. In fact the word can help us navigate those, so that they are something through which we receive and learn more wisdom along the way.

So that our hearts are like the good soil, which accepts the seed: the word, and produces a good crop. That should be our aim, whatever we face in this life.

peace of mind and heart

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

Usually when I turn to this passage, which naturally I know quite well by now, it’s when I’m already lost in anxiety or worry over something. And that’s quite alright and good. We need to go to such promises as this when we’re struggling, or not doing well. But what if we could apply this passage in such a way as to simply avoid worry and anxiety altogether? Or more realistically keep growing toward that ideal, so that any lapse would be short lived, and increasingly rare.

Easier said than done. But words are where we start. And the Word (John 1). Scripture which points us to Christ and the gospel. But the importance of the specifics in scripture should not be minimized.

Trying to apply the passage above means that whenever something happens which might cause anxiety, immediately we bring it to God in prayer with thanksgiving. Praying as best we can, but looking to God for the answer. And more importantly, simply resting in God, or more precisely, as it says, in God’s peace, which surpasses and transcends, or is greater than our understanding, or all understanding, for that matter. To have our hearts and minds guarded in Christ Jesus is what more and more should be the norm for us. But we have to keep bringing the concerns that come our way to God in prayer. And in a sense we can say, leave them there. In and through Jesus.

our Father will take care of it

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6

Anyone who knows me well knows I can be prone to worry. Although I’ve come a long way in overcoming it, mostly by dealing with it much better. But also by being in the word, in scripture, which helps prevent its onset since our minds are occupied elsewhere. And where they’re occupied when we’re in scripture is in terms of God’s will, which is actually good, and in terms of the real world in which we live, which is wonderful, yet also fraught with danger and death, not to mention degradation.

Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount can help us with the realization that our lives are in the Father’s hands (link above). God will let nothing pass through other than that which he allows. And there honestly is mystery in that. Why are some beset with problems, and at times, even disasters, while others seem to live long, relatively trouble free lives? We don’t know, but we have to trust that God will work good out of what always will be evil. And that God redeems, and can indeed rescue. We pray, and ask God for his help for ourselves and others. And above all, we seek to entrust ourselves, our lives, our all, and especially our loved ones into the tender hands of the Father’s care. In and through Jesus.

the command/directive not to be anxious about anything

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 was thinking yesterday about the command or directive from God not to be anxious, or worry about anything at all. The Greek word translated “anxious” by some Bible translations, and “worry” by others is μεριμνάω which according to Bill Mounce means “to worry, have anxiety, be concerned.” It seems rather unreasonable given the nature of the world, and the responsibilities we have, so that it would sound not only like foolishness in the eyes of the world, but a mistake even to those who have faith in God through Christ. Radical, for sure. But the imperative doesn’t end there.

We’re to pray with thanksgiving, to let God know just what is going on instead of giving in to anxiety, or trying to fix the problem ourselves. It is easy over time to just kind of give up and lose hope due to a number of circumstances, but mostly due to lacking faith in God. We’re to believe not in ourselves, but in God’s promise and love, even his calling to us. Confident that he will bring it to pass, and enable us to fulfill that calling through the gifting God gives us. I’ve been there, and it’s not good. It doesn’t matter how we feel about something, whether anxious, or losing all hope. We need to pray, and keep praying, and not give up. Continuing to bring it to God in prayer.

The answer promised is not necessarily a nice fix of the problem like we might envision, or like. It is simply God’s peace. This suggests to me that our solutions, or even wishes may somehow be misguided, probably the basic point being that we are trying to solve the matter ourselves, rather than letting God work it out, rather than waiting on God. It’s not like we won’t end up doing anything in the end. It’s just that we need to do so not in anxiety and fear, but with God’s peace. Or to simply remain in that peace, not doing anything ourselves. All of this in and through Jesus.

a simple look at the translation of the Greek word transliterated hyperecho in Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

In the great promise on avoiding or dealing with anxiety, I like the New International Version‘s translation of the Greek word transliterated hyperechotranscends. I used to not care much for it. Surpasses, though is not a word we use that often. And in this context, to me it is confusing. The peace of God surpasses our understanding. What does that mean. In our thinking it might mean it simply bypasses it. What it really means, if we think about it more, is that it is greater than our understanding. And we could say, above and beyond it. Even the idea from the New Living Translation that God’s peace exceeds anything we can understand, while helpful, still is not quite satisfying to me, when trying to make sense of this.

So the NIV‘s “transcends” I end up finding helpful, after all. It has the idea to me of above and beyond. So that we’re to live in that peace when our understanding fails, believing that God is in it, and that we can trust him. Which is at the heart of what the promise in Philippians 4:6-7 is all about. In and through Jesus.

“more joy/less anxiety”

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.

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. 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.

Philippians 4:4-9

I thought I pretty much had the beast of anxiety under control, not that I had arrived on that score. That has been the sin of default to which I can always fall into at any time, but which I think I am handling better even when it comes and takes over. But better yet is to somehow not let it get into the doorway or entry point of one’s heart and life in the first place. But that thought has seemed to me more fantasy and fiction than anything else. It just doesn’t seem to work in the real world. And yet I know better, both in terms of scripture, and even with reference to science in how the brain works, specifically neuroscience. But especially because I believe there is a God who has quite specific promises in this direction, the most direct on this issue in the passage quoted above.

Back to the first point: So I had worked three 13 hour days and was naturally tired, more drowsy than I imagined, and of course I wasn’t all that concerned about a message on anxiety, though I was definitely interested. Naturally according to script, I dozed off, and in this case probably missed almost half the message, more or less. So as I do if I doze off at all, I’ll watch the message later.

Yesterday while doing some work around the house, a thought hit me over a matter I thought was resolved, and I couldn’t shake it and anxiety was taking over. I knew that later when I would have the time to watch it, I would be completely all ears when listening to this message on anxiety. And I’m thankful that there will be a series on anxiety after Thanksgiving. It came across to me as the best message I’ve heard on the subject. I would highly recommend this message from Pastor Jeff Manion of Ada Bible Church, the one in the series on Philippians: Choosing Joy Under Pressure, week 9: more joy/less anxiety.

The message in a nutshell: see the text above, and consider your view of God and your focus on God’s generosity (or failure to see well, and do this), how that affects your demeanor and conduct, how we’re to simply pray so that we’ll receive God’s peace, what our thought life is to be like with reference to what we take in during the course of a day. And how we’re to follow Paul’s example in all of this, Paul who was incarcerated at the time, awaiting trial before an unpredictable emperor, Nero, so that depending on how the emperor was doing he might be released or executed. And yet knew joy, as this letter makes clear, helping a struggling church. That summarizes the message, but misses so much.

So this is something I will continue to work on. I’m in process, but looking forward to a growth which takes on more and more joy, and less and less anxiety in and through Jesus.