Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6, esv).
When Paul coaches us, “Do not be anxious about anything,” it’s easy to react with indignation. “Really, Paul?! Have you looked at my life lately? Don’t be anxious about anything?” Since these are hard words to apply, let’s consider Paul’s advice thoughtfully to see how it bears up when the rubber meets the road.
The core of the word anxiousness is the idea of “a dividing care.” Worry, fear, and anxiety are like troubled sisters. But anxiousness evokes the idea of a dividing care—something that wakes you up at night, a distraction so nagging you can’t fully enter another conversation, a trouble that overshadows all your interactions. A care that divides your mind.
“Be anxious for nothing; pray about everything.”
There is no peace in that. When you have peace, things are in their right place—entrusted to God—and no care divides your mind. When Paul tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything,” he is instructing us not to allow a dividing care about anything.
We tend to rationalize our anxiety. Well, Paul’s advice applies to most people in most situations, but if Paul considered what I feel anxious about, he would make an exception. Clearly, I should be anxious about my burdens. But are our anxieties really so unique?
We can all agree that anxiety is natural and understandable, but many things are understandable that are not excusable. Because we believe that God’s Word is inspired by the Holy Spirit, we believe every word is specifically chosen by God—even this word anything. So we must accept that the God who made us wants us to hear, “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING.”
The decision to be anxious is the decision not to trust God about the specifics of your situation, the decision to give up your peace.
When we choose to sin, we choose to suffer. When God tells us not to be anxious, He is not trying to rob us of something satisfying; He’s warning us about something self-destructive. Anxiety has nasty, proven side effects: irritability, depression, insomnia, fatigue, migraines, muscle pain, elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, ulcers, weakened immune system, susceptibility to overeat and overwork. The side effects of anxiety seep into every area of our lives: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. Anxiety is obviously not healthy.
So how do we banish anxiety? “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We start praying. About what? Everything. There’s no wiggle room or creative way to parse this: pray about everything.
There is no such thing as The Unimportant Prayer Request List. Be anxious about nothing; pray about everything. Out with anxiety—in with prayer.
Father God, forgive me for being anxious. So much is outside my control. In some situations, I can’t even imagine how my problems will change, yet I bow before You, the Sovereign Lord who is in control of everything. Thank You that You are at work in my life and that no detail has escaped Your notice. What an awesome God You are, worthy of my worship. Displace the anxiety in my heart and mind with a deep, abiding sense of thankfulness and with Your peace. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, amen.