I woke up the other day feeling anxious and out of sorts. The things I was stressing about were really stupid things to obsess about at 4:30 in the morning. In fact, as I lay there trying to go back to sleep, I noticed a trend in that none of them were major, life-shattering things. They were all either things that are fairly easy to take care of in the day light hours or things that don’t warrant anxious feelings anyway, but there I was feeling anxious. In fact, almost every one of them was something that I had procrastinated about doing for one reason or another, but none of them were major life issues. So, you see what a stupid stress session I was having at 4:30 in the morning the other day. And that’s only the beginning. From there I started stressing about other things that also are not huge, big things and are fairly easily remedied. Finally I just decided to get up and pray and read my Bible since by then it wasn’t all that long until the alarm was going to be sounding anyway as I get up early most days to try to pray and read my Bible before the kids get up.
This day I decided that before I tried to continue with my daily read through the Bible plan I would turn to Philippians 4:6-7 first and focus my thoughts on how God tells us in His word to be anxious for nothing. So, I opened my Bible, propped it up on the chair and knelt to read and pray. But I didn’t just read verses 6 and 7. As I read, I realized what the verses before and after 6 and 7 say. And I got to thinking, and it was like a light came on. Here’s what I read:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
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.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
I don’t know about you, but I tend to whip out the “Be anxious for nothing….” part of that passage, it’s one a lot of people memorize, when I’m feeling anxious and try to browbeat myself into not feeling anxious - focusing on the feelings while not addressing the thoughts and where they are to be focused. However, not only is the command to not be anxious given, but the antidote to being anxious is also given. How cool is that? This is why I love God’s word. This is why we say it is the Living Word. I’ve read through Philippians I don’t know how many times, but it only just the other day really clicked for me how three very popular and familiar passages to memorize actually work together. Novel thought, that, reading Bible verses in context, eh?
How many of us go around trying to gear ourselves up to rejoice in the Lord and be anxious for nothing in our own strength, and with no “finally brethren, whatever things….” to think upon we find ourselves spiraling right back into anxiety? Raising my hand. How many of us know those three sections separately and pull them out often, but very seldom put them together and see how it all fits?
We’ve been reading Loving God With All Your Mind by Elizabeth George in our women’s group on Sunday nights at church, as I’ve mentioned before, and in the first part of that book several chapters are spent discussing just what it means to think on what is true. For example, when I’m lying there at 4 dark thirty in the morning feeling anxious and out of sorts, I can ask myself, wait a minute – what is true here? Are the things I’m worrying about true or just potentialities? Am I anxious because I need to be doing something I haven’t done yet or have put off doing? Then what is true is that I can get my act together and do what needs to be done. Am I anxious about something out of my control? Focus on what is true and not what I fear might happen. Usually there is enough to focus on that is immediate and true that I only get into trouble by focusing on the 'what ifs.' My husband and I have a phrase we repeat often to each other: "There are no 'what ifs,' there's only 'what is.' Not that you don't ever prepare, but you get my meaning. You could write a whole book on this topic (in fact, it's covered nicely in Loving God With All Your Mind), this is just a blog post. Is my understanding of God lining up with His word in all that I’m thinking? If not, focus on what is true about Him. Am I purposefully remembering that God causes all things, even this whatever it is, to work together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose to conform us into the image of His Son? Even if the whatever doesn’t seem so good at the moment, am I trusting His purpose?
So that morning while I was reading and praying the scripture, I began thinking about the command to rejoice in the Lord. It doesn’t say, ‘Feel good about everything right now.’ It says, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ So I started thinking about why I can rejoice in the Lord always. Awesome. And I took my requests to God, and remembered that His word says that when I do so the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard my heart in Christ Jesus. And part of that peace stems from thinking on those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. Purposefully retraining my thinking from me, me, me, woe is me, to those things that lead to trusting in the God of peace who is with me.
It was a good morning.