“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)
This verse promises an unfathomable, divinely empowered, peace that guards the hearts and minds of Christians. Why then, does God’s peace elude so many of us?
First, notice that the promise comes with a prohibition: “Do not be anxious about anything”. Nothing drains peace like worry. And nothing is as useless as worry. That’s why Jesus said,
“Do not be anxious about your life… Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? Who by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Matthew 6: 26-27.
Birds have a lot to teach worrywarts. This fact sheds new light on the derogatory term “bird brain”. Some of us should consider the term a compliment. At least birds have the wisdom to trust God. But a worrywart only trusts himself and that becomes his undoing!
Second, the peace God offers is inseparably linked to gratitude. Nothing sustains peace better than genuine thankfulness toward God. Unfortunately thankfulness doesn’t come naturally, and people are as unaware of their ingratitude as they are of their bad breath.
Recently, I was complaining to my wife about having to wait too long on the phone (I mean my new iphone) for the greedy drug company to put me in contact with a real person (The company had developed a new medicine, without bothersome side effects, for our son). And even though I remember sending in correct paperwork twice already, (actually email saved me postage and time) the drug company failed again to update our health insurance information (to reflect the new, cheaper rates). I could only see every annoyance, so as I lay down that night I offered a vague thanks to God. But, I failed to notice that my “thanksgiving” list was functionally empty. I was too focused on thinking through my “to do” list for the next day. Thanklessness and anxiety had drained my peace dry.
So how can you keep peace from leaking down the drain? The good news is that God provides a constant stream of peace. So, it shouldn’t take long to fill up when you follow Philippians 4:6-7 and plug your leaks.
First get serious about giving thanks to God. If you’ve felt melancholy for some time, its likely you need to change your perspective from worry to thanksgiving. When you fail to appreciate your blessings it will result in only feeling exhausted by them. So, slow down! Pause longer than you think reasonable and thank God for every little thing. Get specific. You’ll discover untapped joy, and renewed energy – special gifts God reserves solely for thankful hearts.
Second (and more importantly), remember God is for you. Jesus is proof! When he died on the cross, he paid the ultimate price to guarantee your peace forever. His resurrection establishes that he really is who he claims to be — so there is nothing to worry about. Get busy thanking God for all the good things coming to you, simply because you are connected to Jesus. The more specific you can get in your thanksgiving, the more leaks you will plug.
- Feeling overlooked, or forgotten? Thank God that He has tattooed your name on his hands (Isaiah 49:16). You are precious to Him.
- Feeling overcome with grief? Thank God, Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer intense grief (Isaiah 53:3). He is with you in the darkness and he will bring you through it.
- Feeling exhausted with anger? Thank God that He endures your anger with patience and he responds with loving kindness (Exodus 34:6). He’ll bless you as you wrestle with Him (Genesis 32: 26-29).
- Feeling hopeless to change? Thank God you are discovering your need for Jesus. Let your skepticism drive you away from self-reliance and toward a greater dependence on Jesus (John 15:5)
As you plug the leaks caused by ingratitude (and worry) expect your peace to overflow its normal reservoir and become a “peace that passes all understanding.”