What owns you
I recently gave a talk on anxiety, around the singular and oft-memorized verses from Philippians chapter 4, verses 4-7 (Mar 17, 2019, Wabash Alliance Church).
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 everything, 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. (Phi 4:4-7 NIV)
It’s no wonder that this passage is so frequently visited. That we live in a culture of anxiety is proclaimed wide and loudly. Anxiety will wreck your heart, shorten your life, take the joy out of relationships, and make you miss the beauty and wonder of everything around you. It makes us chase after temporary relief whether diversions, drugs or divorce, and leads to addiction or adultery. We become fools, in a true sense make fools of ourselves.
But the point of the passage, the end and the seeming draw is that we might receive peace, the supernatural peace of God no less. I wonder how many get that far? What I mean is, how many are actually seeking peace? Or instead are we seeking either numbness or ecstasy, dwell in despair and wear our identity in pain and dysfunction?
When do we try to own our emotions - and end up with our emotions owning us?
‘It’s just the way I was made’ – as if a personality is defined not just by what makes you angry or depressed (as if that weren’t bad enough) but solely by being angry (a la the Hulk), or by sexual lust, by fear or by being judgmental. ‘It’s who I am.’ That instead of ‘this is how I’m feeling right now, God help me…’
But this is not what God intends. Jesus came that we might have life, and life to the full. And that means a life with Him. We can turn all our anxiety and worry over to Him, Who is real and present and sovereign over all the dirt and drama. “The Lord is near” (Phi 4:5b). Paul’s exhortation is to focus on Him, to praise God for Who He is and for what He has done, to get over ourselves, and to commune with Him in prayer - inviting Him into the core of our being.
Then, maybe only then, the peace of God, which transcends all humanistic understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.