“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.” Philippians 4:6-7
Our world is rapidly changing day by day as we navigate through this coronavirus scare. It was only a few weeks back that I was planting flowers in my garden boxes and planters as we anticipated the first signs of Spring in California. We were busy doing our normal routine, and we were looking forward to longer days of light. In just the course of a few weeks, our way of life as we knew it has come to a screeching halt. School has been canceled (probably till next fall they say), which means all the athletics and other activities that go along with it as well. Businesses are closed, and we have been instructed to “shelter-in-place” (SIP) and not leave our homes for any reason except for essentials like groceries, medicines, etc. The trip to our local grocery store before the SIP went into effect looked like a scene from a dystopian movie. Shelves were bare, and people were lined up 30 people deep to the back of the store in each checkout line. With the whole world, literally, being tossed by the waves of a global anxiety attack, what are we to do?
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are given a gift that only He can supply. That gift is His supernatural ability to guard our hearts and our minds in the midst of any kind of trouble or calamity. This doesn’t mean that we won’t ever feel fear or anxiety, we will, but He’s given the antidote to fear. The New Living Translation (NLT) of the verse above says this:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
First, we are to pray. To pray just means to talk with our heavenly Father. It can take many forms. We can talk with Him about what we are thankful for, we can offer Him praise for who He is and all He’s done, and we can pour our hearts out to Him about all the things that trouble us. What’s interesting about this verse is that it gives us an order. It says we are to pray and ask for what we need, and then we are to thank Him for all he’s done. The first part is where we pour out our hearts to Him. The Bible tells us to “cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you” -1 Peter 5:7 ESV. The next part is to thank Him for all He’s done. I believe that it’s most effective to just not give a blanket thank you but to think and remember all of the times the Lord was with you and how he helped or delivered you in past times from many challenges. When we stop to remember all that the Lord has done for us, we can be reassured that He will be with us again. Of course, it’s not always the way we may expect when we’re in the thick of it, but when we look back, we can see His hand at work and what was accomplished during that time. Also, by remembering the good He’s done before, it takes our thoughts off of the “what if” that we are anxious about.
I’ve worked as a trainer, facilitator and researcher covering the fields of Psychology, Neuroscience, etc., and one thing we know is that when we feel fear it’s both a mental and physical reaction. In the physical, our heart rate and blood pressure goes up because the stress response, or fight-or flight response, is engaged. When this happens, it’s like the prefrontal cortex part of our brains, which is responsible for problem solving, logic and self-control, gets hijacked and can make us more prone to those feelings of anxiety and panic. We also know that when you change your thoughts, you can change your physical response and vice versa. Isn’t it amazing that how the Bible tells us to deal with anxiety and worries will end up “guarding our hearts and our minds?” Of course, Jesus is the only One who can give us supernatural peace and guard our hearts and minds in the midst of the biggest challenges and storms of life.
So, what are we to do in times likes these?
- We are to run to our Heavenly Father in prayer and pour our hearts out to him all that troubles us.
- We are to think about and remember how he has delivered us before and how He will never leave us or forsake us and thank Him for it.
By coming before the “throne of grace” (Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.-Hebrews 4:16), remembering all that He’s done for us before and giving Him thanks, we then will find the calm and peace in our souls that only the Lord Jesus Christ can give as we set our eyes on Him and not on the storm.