Let’s just say that life in general provides ample opportunities to choose anxiety. All of us can say that at one point or another, feelings of anxiety have plagued us. Life is hard, and often times, choosing joy feels like an impossible task. It’s the battle between allowing our feelings to lead us versus our faith. Which will we choose today?
I sat in church this weekend completely conflicted. Anybody ever been there? You’re surrounded by an environment of worship, truth, and Jesus, but your heart is far from those things. It could be because of an argument you got into that morning on your way to church (I know that nobody ever struggles with that, right?), or maybe it’s because of ongoing stress that you’ve been trying to “deal with,” but it’s not working, and it has completely consumed you. It could be because of a variety of things, but I think we’ve all been there, too. We’re in the “right” place but with the “wrong” heart. Still, I believe with everything in me that God meets us exactly where we’re at, regardless of our wayward hearts, and He most certainly met me in my mess this weekend at church.
Our pastor taught from a very familiar passage: Philippians 4:1-8. You know, “Rejoice always…don’t be anxious…pray about everything…think about “these things.” Any other week, it would have probably been little more than inspiration and a reminder of truth, but this weekend, it was ever so timely and hit me right between the eyes and penetrated my heart. I desperately needed to hear these words again. I needed to be convicted about things that I had let slip in my own life. I needed truth to redirect my wrong thinking.
And that is exactly what God’s Word does: it changes our wrong thinking. It renews our minds. At my church, we’re in a series called “Joy,” and we’re studying the book of Philippians as we unpack this particular fruit of the Spirit. While much can be learned from Philippians 4:1-8, my major takeaway this past weekend was about prayer. And here is is:
“Prayer is the pathway to joy.”
When we worry more than we pray, we forfeit our joy. When we pray more than we worry, we find our joy in Christ. Both joy and anxiety cannot coexist in our lives. One will always win out over the other. Here’s a good question for each of us to wrestle with today as we face all of the things that will tempt us to worry and be anxious:
Have you prayed about it more than you’ve worried about it?
It’s simple enough, but it’s radical. Who prays more than they worry? But if we actually did this, how different would our lives look? How much less would we worry? How much more peace and joy would we have?
I think that the antidote to anxiety is prayer. Why? Because prayer connects us to God and His presence. Because prayer reminds us that He is in this with us. Because His presence provides us with peace. Because joy flows from peace. Because when we pray about our stuff more than we worry about it, our God becomes bigger than our trying circumstance. The extent to which we dwell on something determines its size in our minds. Choose to dwell on Jesus. See Him greater and bigger than your worry. Because He is.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:4-8