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Heart pounding. Forehead beaded with sweat. Lungs unable to take in a breath. My knuckles turning white as I gripped the shopping cart. My mind firing off in a thousand directions at once with no place to settle.
It was the week of Christmas. In Walmart. I was alone among the thousands (that might be an exaggerated number!) of frazzled shoppers and I was having an anxiety attack.
It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened to me so I knew I wasn’t having a heart attack no matter what my body was saying.
This happened almost 20 years ago but I still remember it so clearly. Anxiety is no joke. And it turns out that it’s pretty common.
Anxiety disorders affect over 40 million Americans, but general feelings of anxiety affect all of us at some point. This post is for those of us who experience anxious thoughts from time to time. If you have persistent anxiety, please don’t hesitate to see a doctor!
Jesus came to give us abundant peace. He has made available all we need to be victorious in the area of anxious thoughts.
- What is causing you anxiety right now? Make a list and include even the smallest things that are causing anxious thoughts.
Philippians 4:6-7 gives us a plan for handling the anxiety that can settle in, robbing us of our peace and our sleep.
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
Let’s dig into these verses a little bit.
Do not be anxious about anything. The word “anxious” in the original Greek means “to go to pieces; drawn in opposite directions; divided into parts.” When I moved to Tennesse I heard a saying that I’d never heard before. Instead of saying that someone was “freaking out”, they’d say, “She just had herself a come-apart.” That pretty much sums up what anxiety feels like. Your mind is being torn into a million little pieces with the wind blowing it all over the place.
The next part of the verse says, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.” Here’s where it gets interesting. The word “everything” in the Greek means “one piece at a time; viewing the whole in terms of the individual pieces.” There’s the word “pieces” again! What God has been teaching me is that when I get anxious, I need to lay it all out before Him. Every single piece – from the seemingly insignificant to the most glaringly obvious.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding . . . Let’s look at the word “peace.” It means “all the parts joined back together completely whole.”
A few days ago I decided to start going through my bedroom and organizing stuff. I started with the top left drawer of my dresser. I dumped all of the contents out onto my bed and I began to sort through it. This drawer was my . . . ummmmmm . . . let’s just use the word “unmentionables” drawer. But in that drawer were headphones, a gift card, note cards, and other things that were clearly not “unmentionables”. I picked up each and every item and made a decision. Some I set aside all the things that needed to go somewhere else. Some things went straight to the garbage pile. And other things I put neatly back into the drawer because they belonged there.
See where I am going with this? Just like the definition above says, I dealt with the whole chaotic issue one piece at a time. I repeated this with three other drawers and by the end of the evening, I had 4 very peaceful dresser drawers.
Philippians 4:5 reminds us that God is right beside us. He wants to help us sort through all the anxious thoughts pinballing around in our minds. He wants to show us the ones that we need to get rid of and the ones that don’t even pertain to the situation. He will help us break it down to what is the truth and that’s what we can hold on to.
But wait! There’s more! The last part of verse 7 talks about how peace works. It guards our hearts and minds – like a military sentinel. A military sentinel that is poised and ready to take out any enemy that comes near. God’s peace is so different from the world’s peace. It’s beyond what our human minds can comprehend. It’s a supernatural thing that, fortunately, we don’t have to understand, we can just let it do its thing.
Jesus came so that we could experience abundant peace. The enemy loves for our minds to be in turmoil because it makes us ineffective believers. Allow the truth of Philippians 4:6-7 to help you navigate your way through the next round of anxiety that comes your way.
- Using the list of anxious thoughts you made, write out (or talk out) a prayer with God, laying out all the pieces. Allow God to sort through them with you and get rid of the what doesn’t belong.