Anxiety is a thief. It steals your peace, your confidence, and your joy. And I think it's safe to say that we're all living in a world of anxiety, worry, and stress right now.
In Philippians 4, the apostle Paul wrote, "Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus" (vv. 6-7).
If you can truly embrace these verses, I believe they will revolutionize your whole approach to this season of life. So from them, let's look at a fourfold approach to understanding and overcoming anxiety:
1. The problem: anxiety. The Greek word for anxiety, merimnaó, literally means to tear or divide the mind. It's an apt description, isn't it? On one hand, I understand why the panic is so widespread in regard to the current state of things, especially for unbelievers. If you don't live with an anchor of faith, you're going to drift in a sea of anxiety and isolation—and that's a scary place to be. But things are different for the child of God.
2. The prescription: "Be anxious for nothing." Notice that's a commandment—and one that might seem absolutely unrealistic to you right now. But Jesus said almost exactly the same thing, didn't He? "Do not worry about your life.... Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:25-26). Worrying is unhealthy, not to mention unbecoming to a child of God. It is, in effect, saying, "God, I don't trust You or the promises You've made."
3. The prayer: "But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." The cure for worry is to redirect your energy and replace your anxiety with prayer. Notice the different kinds of prayer mentioned in this verse: The first is simply prayer, often translated worship or devotion. Whenever you're tempted to worry this coming week, might I suggest you worship instead? Worship and worry cannot coexist in the same heart. Then there's supplication, or emotional, heartfelt crying out; thanksgiving, or thanking God for what He has done and what He has promised to do; and, finally, the command to simply "let your requests be made known to God."
4. The promise: "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." The peace of God transcends human ability to explain (see Isaiah 26:3). It's a tranquil feeling of confidence that it's going to be okay because God is the Master of the universe. And this peace will guard your heart and mind like a sentry guarding a gate, keeping certain thoughts from entering.
Notice the process: we enter this passage in Philippians in anxiety, but we exit it in peace. And in between the two is prayer.
So cast your cares on the One who cares for you (see 1 Peter 5:7), on the One who perhaps right now is tapping you on the heart, saying, "I want you to resign from trying to control everything and worrying about everything. I'm your Father, and I'm going to take care of you." Redirect your energy and replace your anxiety with prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and articulating your requests, and experience the inexplicable peace that will guard your mind and your heart through Jesus Christ.