It’s the verse I remember encountering for the first time as a college student who was very stressed about a project. It’s the verse that I held tight to during the darkest season of my life and continued to apply as God unfolded redemption in my life. It’s a verse that I’ve referenced too many times to count.
It may be a verse that you are familiar with too. In fact, it may be a verse that many of us have grown too familiar with.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) says, “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.”
When I was reading this verse recently, God showed up to me in a way that revolutionized the way I apply this truth to my life.
First, it says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” This is actually a command that God has given us. I remember when I was walking and talking with a friend about the fear that I was facing and the extreme anxiety that I was working to overcome. She had experienced this in her past as well. She told me that God showed her that anxiety is a sin. Ouch, that hurt! That wasn’t the comfort I was looking for when I was feeling overwhelmed by anxiety. In fact, it even made me feel a bit condemned. Yet, I took what she said to heart and to God. Before that moment, I didn’t recognize anxiety as sin, and therefore I never repented of it in my life. I thought it was just a terrible feeling that I couldn’t control. Coming to the knowledge that anxiety was a sin in my life caused me to take these feelings to God and repent for allowing them to dwell in my life. From this place of repentance, I was able to ask God to help me overcome them. I believe this pattern of confession and repentance was what led to my freedom.
Next, it says, “but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” It seems like no situation is too big or too small to worry about, so praise the Lord that no situation is too big or too small for God. We can literally take every part of our lives and every part of ourselves before God. This is what he wants us to do – to live in total surrender to him. When we do bring a situation before God, we should also bring our praise. Our genuine thanksgiving to God for who He is and what He has done to set us free will help us to truly hand over the situation. We need to remember who God is and why we are bringing the situation before him in the first place – He is everything we need and He can do all things.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…” This is the part that really became real to me most recently. When worry or fear comes, I often look to understanding the situation to bring me peace. If I just know why something is happening and know how to fix it (understanding), it will all be okay. But this verse doesn’t promise us understanding. It promises the peace of God. It is saying that if I will turn my cares over to God, the peace that He will give me about the situation will be better than any level of understanding I could acquire. That means that I may not understand how something will work out, but I know that God will work it out. This is actually freeing! This means I don’t need to anticipate problems and their solutions. I just need to be faithful to God and trust Him, bringing every situation to Him.
His peace “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is the promise that will accompany our obedience to the instructions in this verse – peace in our hearts and minds. We all long for peace in our lives, but it will not come through our own striving, understanding, problem solving, or anxiety. It will only come when we surrender our situations to Jesus in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.
Whatever is on your heart today, will you bring it to God and lay it at his feet? We can walk in peace knowing that we serve a creative God who cares about our every need and desire. Even when we cannot see any possible solutions, Jesus is able to make a way.
Lord, forgive me for the anxiety that I have allowed to dwell in my life. I commit to bringing my needs and desires before you through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving. I thank you for living a perfect life, taking my sin to the cross, dying the death that I deserved, and raising me with You to new life. By the power of your resurrection, I also overcome sin and death. Please take this situation (whatever you need to give to God) and let your peace guard my heart and mind. Amen.