“ do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is saying that we, as children of God, are to lead our hearts. It’s a proactive decision not to worry based on our revelation of God’s character rather than a reactive consequence of our emotions and circumstances. The reason why we don’t have to worry about “anything” is because God is ultimately in control. It’s important to know and understand God’s intent. Not only is God in control but His heart is to do what is ultimately best for His children. Believers are not to be anxious but are to entrust themselves into the hands of their loving Father whose peace will guard them in Christ Jesus.
Now, worry or anxiety can be good or bad. Paul has anxiety for the progress of the gospel and the condition of the individual churches he has founded; he even sometimes loses sleep over them but this worry is not a noxious anxiety. The worry Paul warns against here is the kind of anxiety that unhinges, paralyses and incapacitates a person. Paul is not calling believers to be ‘indifferent’ towards life’s circumstances but to be dependent on God in every circumstance.
For a moment, imagine never having to worry, ever! It’s hard to comprehend a life with no negative anxiety. We all have worries about our job, our homes, our health and future, our families, finances and so much more but Paul’s directive is to turn our worries into prayers. Do you want to worry less? Then pray more! As you do, you will find that God’s peace becomes like a divine soldier that serves faithfully as a guard to your heart. Fantastic! Think of it this way. When we lay our troubles before God in prayer, this peace (like a divine soldier) will stand guard at the door of our heart and mind, preventing the burdensome cares and heartache from taking residence. “Worry, fear, disappointment, anxiety - you can’t come in here! You are not welcome!” This peace keeps our minds from becoming hardened, blinded and outwitted by our enemy. Furthermore, this peace is an inner tranquillity mediated to us by the Holy Spirit. This peace involves a firm conviction that Jesus is near and that God’s love will be active in our lives. This is a peace that leads to calm contentment in every circumstance while protecting our pure and sincere devotion to Christ. Like Sarah, who mentions in her testimony below, let your worries be shaped into honest prayers.
If you had told me that in the space of a couple of years, I would experience chronic illness; watch many of my family-members struggle with ill-health; be forced to take a year out of university; struggle with my mental health; go through a difficult relationship and experience a global pandemic, I would not have wanted to believe you. Yet that is what the past two years have looked like for me. It sounds bleak when we review our hardships in this way, however, hardship has become an unexpected gift because it shifts my gaze from how bad things feel onto how abundantly good God is through every single season of life. He is truly good even when life is not.
At the beginning of lockdown, I decided to commit to prayer and to choose to find gratitude in a greater way than I have before. I chose Him when there was so much that did not make sense to me which completely transformed my response towards pain. He gives the kind of peace that is not dependent on the removal of ‘hard times’ because we are consistently held by the One who knew pain more intimately than we ever will. We realise that He is a better author of our lives than we could ever be.
I cannot plan how far my capacity will stretch according to my symptoms but I can allow my worries to be shaped into honest prayers because I know now, more than ever, that I can trust Him. It is that awareness of who He is and His gentle moulding that repeatedly grounds me in His promise of peace. Whatever else I come against this year, I know the One who is already fighting on my behalf.
What has God said to you through today’s promise?