"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7
Two friends decided to go on a hike together. Ted was an incredible runner for his school’s track team and grew up venturing the wilderness with his family. Dave was more of the bookworm type and not nearly the outdoorsman as his companion. By some miracle, Ted managed to convince Dave to accompany him on a “short” hike.
Since the outdoors wasn’t Dave’s forte, he was a bit lost on how to pack. So he decided to bring everything he could imagine would have some use. Ted tried to warn him that the pack would exhaust him on the trip, but Dave was adamant that he needed everything he brought. So off they went.
At first, Dave felt pretty good. The sun provided a nice warmth to complement the touch of chill from the fall wind. The outdoor aromas of nature filled his senses with feelings of freedom and carelessness. A smile spread across his face as he thought that maybe hiking could be a hobby after all.
His smile began to melt away after the first mile. Discomfort started spreading across his shoulders. Soon his feet began to complain about the excess pressure his stuffed backpack gave to each step. Ted eyed his buddy with amusement. He could tell that the weight was beginning to affect Dave’s endurance. If he didn’t find a way to lighten the load, they would have to cut their hike short. “Maybe you could leave some of your things inside the hollow of that tree over there.”
“But what if I need it?” Dave objected.
“I doubt we’re really going to need everything you packed inside there. Besides, we’ll be coming through here again on our way back. I know these trails like the back of my hand. We’ll stop by the tree, collect your things, and walk the final mile home. I don’t think you want to carry that pack for another two miles.”
The words “two miles” stung Dave’s ears. Already he could feel the wave of exhaustion that would inevitably hit him if he ignored Ted’s advice. So he relented. Ted helped him decide that a week’s worth of food and water wasn’t necessary for a one-day hike, in addition to the pile of books Dave planned to read when they stopped for a break. Needless to say, Dave’s pack felt much lighter as they went the rest of the way.
Many liken the Christian life to a pilgrimage or a hike. 2 Peter 2:11 calls us strangers and pilgrims. Like Abraham, we nomadically travel this earth, keeping our eyes on that heavenly kingdom promised in Christ. As we walk along that pathway, negative circumstances try to weigh us down. Worries of the world begin to flood our souls when finances get tight, the job seems unstable, or a loved one contracts a serious illness. The more we think on these things, the more we become pack mules for our problems. Weighing down our heart is essentially weighing down our peace. Philippians 4:6-7 gives us a way out.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the most common psychological disorder among U.S. adults is anxiety. An estimated 18% suffer from this disorder. Another source proposes that one out of every thirteen people fit into this category.
A Sinful Action
Anxiety is a sin. Contrary to the modern views of psychology, worry goes against the command of God’s will for His children. When the believer chooses to consume his mental energies on things he really can’t control, he robs God of His place of authority. On the surface, he may pray here and there for God to give aid and respond in frustration as his needs still aren’t being met. God doesn’t work for us. We work for Him. God has no obligation to intervene in a situation we try to control.
Because anxiety is a matter of choice, believers find hope in knowing God can help them obey His commands. What we do in human effort makes them impossible. To depend on the Holy Spirit’s transformational power enables the believer to be finally free from the chains of worry and anxiety.
A Proper Response
To “be careful for nothing” could be said this way: “Don’t worry.” Worry is defined as “[giving] way to anxiety or unease; [allowing] one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” Our minds are professionals at replaying the record player of a particular situation without end. Thinking ourselves to be solution oriented, we will try to look at the problem from every possible angle, trying not to look at the internal stress meter breaking max capacity. “Forget sleep,” we’ll say to ourselves. “I just can’t get this problem out of my mind.”
The proper response to trials is not to dwell on the obstacles. It’s to communicate our needs to God. “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Instead of looking to ourselves to be the solution, we look to God to be the Savior.
Turning to God as a first response goes against the grain of our humanity. There is nothing surprising about this. We know eating junk food is unhealthy, yet still we’ll come home from the grocery store with a box of doughnuts. We know that unless we get the proper amount of sleep, our bodies will eventually give out on us. Still the workaholics push crazy sixty-hour weeks to meet a deadline. To be human is to be a poor responder.
Prayer is arguably the most challenging discipline for a Christian to develop. It may also be one of the most important. The Lord Jesus committed hours at a time for prayer (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12, Mark 6:46, Luke 9:28). For most of us, we identify with Matthew 26:41. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
If your prayer life is not a regular discipline, don’t expect it to be a regular response. To experience peace, we must be in consistent conversation with the Prince of Peace. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:6).”
The extent of your anxiety is the extent of needed prayer. Better to spend all night in prayer to God for spiritual strength than to wrestle with worry. Psalm 50:15 says, “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” In Psalm 86:7 we find this promise: “In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.” There is no greater response to anxiety than prayer.
A Humble Heart
To be careful for nothing is to give up control. The pride of man tries to hold onto every burden as his responsibility. Humility lays those burdens at the feet of Jesus. The sooner man acknowledges his inability to God, the sooner he is free from anxiety. E. M. Bounds put it this way: “Nothing more truly shows us our helplessness than when trouble comes. It brings the strong man low, it discloses our weakness, it brings a sense of helplessness. Blessed is he who knows how to turn to God in ‘the time of trouble (Bounds 35).'”
God educates us in 1 Corinthians 6 that we are bought with a price. When the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and we responded in repentance and faith, He claimed absolute ownership. If it is true that God owns every aspect of my being, then He also owns my problems. A parent takes responsibility for the messes her toddler makes. Even so does God take responsibility for our messes. This does not remove our obligation of repentance and doing our part in making it right. It is, however, freeing to know that no matter how deep I dig my hole, God will draw nigh to me if I draw nigh to Him.
One author pointed out how easy it is for us to enjoy the promise of 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” He wisely pointed out how often we ignore verse six, which says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” To relinquish your cares is to come to God and to say, “I can’t. I can’t control the outcome of this situation, and I leave it to You.”
It's time to give God your burdens. Stop gritting your teeth and tricking yourself into believing you can handle your problems. Lay them before the feet of Jesus. He invites to do so: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30)."
To experience peace, you must Resolve to Stand. Choose today to do what is right no matter the circumstance. You must Remain in Unity. Be right with others so that you may be right with God. Rejoice in the Lord. Remember to praise God for who He is and what He is able to do in your situation. Restrain Your Heart. Surrender your heart's emotions to the control of the Holy Spirit. Now it's time to surrender the worries and fears plaguing your heart. Relinquish Your Cares.