Is it really possible to not be anxious about anything? (Philippians 4:5-7)
They are two of the most famous verses in the Bible. They get quoted all the time. They are on posters, cards, and all over Facebook and Pinterest. I’m sure you’ve heard them hundreds – if not thousands – of times:
“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, NIV
But is this really possible? Can we really not be anxious about anything?
Truth be told, these verses have always been bittersweet to me. I love the call to prayer, petition, and thanksgiving. I love that we worship a God who wants to hear our requests. I love the promise of God’s peace and protection.
That’s the “sweet” part.
The bitter part has been that presenting my requests to God and being thankful didn’t always bring peace. I didn’t always sense that my heart and mind were being protected.
That all changed for me one summer, several years ago. I decided to read Philippians every day for the whole summer.
A couple weeks into it, I noticed something about these verses. Something I had never seen before. It was only four words.
But here in Philippians, there are four words that changed everything: “The Lord is near.”
These are the four words immediately before “Do not be anxious about anything…” And yet, I had never heard anyone say them when they were quoting verses six and seven. I’ve never seen them on a poster or card. Yet these four words are foundational. They are the four words that make it possible to not be anxious.
I cannot be anxious, only when I remember the One who is mightier than my problems is near.
Only when I remember the One who knows the ending is near.
Only when I remember the One who will never forsake me is near.
Only when I remember the One who formed me is near.
Only when I remember the One who died for me is near.
Only when I remember the One who already conquered death is near.
Only when I remember the One who ransomed and redeemed me is near.
Only when I remember “the Lord is near” can I avoid anxiety.
I am anxious when I am more focused on my current struggle than on the Lord who is near, when I wade through the struggle thinking I must figure it out on my own, or when I forget God’s past faithfulness.
Instead of anxiety, here are a few simple ideas to help you focus on the Lord-Who-Is-Near:
- Put a post it note with “The Lord is near”on your bathroom mirror and say it over and over as you brush your teeth in the morning. (You might want to say it silently in your head or it could get a little messy.)
- If you have a screen saver on your computer –or a lock screen you can edit on your phone –have it say “The Lord is near.”
- Set an alarm on your phone for 2-4 random times in your day. Every smartphone has a built-in alarm and you can “name”the alarm. Simply name it “The Lord is near”and that’s what will appear on your screen when the alarm goes off. You can also set it to only vibrate so you don’t interrupt a class or meeting.
“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything…”
I am convinced then when we focus on the Lord’s nearness – instead of focusing on “not being anxious” – that very anxiety will fade away.
How can you focus on the Lord’s nearness today?
Read an earlier post by Keith here.
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