Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 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.Philippians 4:4–7 (ESV)
Philippians 4:6-7 were my father’s favorite verses. He had them printed on a sheet of plain printer paper and pinned to the wall of his bedroom. In fact, he once wrote me a letter while I was away for some Army activities that focused on these verses. It was almost an expository sermon in letter form. He cherished these verses. He knew them by heart. He believed them, as was evident on his death bed.
My own battle with anxiety began when I came back from Afghanistan in 2012. I won’t lead you into thinking I was an infantryman who spent time in intense firefights or who had friends die in my arms. However, I was no stranger to weekly, and sometimes daily, incoming rockets and artillery rounds, traveling in dangerous conditions, and living under the constant threat of car bombs and riots directed at our locations – both of which we experienced.
Interestingly, I had no issue with anxiety while I was in this situation. It was upon my return home that issues started to develop. Slowly, my normally relaxed outward demeanor started to be overtaken by the anxiety underneath. Some of that anxiety I could locate the source of, but often times I could not. I went to counseling a few times, and over time things became manageable.
After the Army, I tried to cope with working full time, going to graduate school full time, being married with two awesome little boys, and participating in the military in a reserve capacity all at the same time. We thought moving to McCook might alleviate things, but it was here that we bought our dream acreage that proved too much for us to handle, learned of Melissa’s devastating illness, sold the dream house, moved into a house that turned out to be an absolute disaster, experienced a number of hospitalizations for Melissa and a liver transplant, and ultimately where we learned of my father’s brain cancer that would lead to his death in our home.
The anxiety I felt as my father was dying was suffocating. In trying to explain how I felt, I once said that my soul felt heavy – a literal weight I seemed to be carrying. I could hardly stand the simple pressures of being in my own home. I knew my father’s favorite verse by heart, but it turns out I didn’t yet BELIEVE it.
I want you to know that mental health is something I take very seriously. I do believe our brain chemistry can become unbalanced and cause serious issues regarding our ability to live what society deems a “normal life”. I believe life’s traumas can cause mental health problems – PTSD, depression, anxiety, and more. I also believe that spiritual oppression is a very real thing, and that those who live in bondage to sin can also suffer from mental health issues.
For those times that brain chemistry plays a role, God has provided for us medical and mental health professionals.
For all times, we have been provided the ultimate healer in Jesus Christ, and the ultimate comforter in the Holy Spirit.
I am very sure there are people in our church that suffer from serious depression. I know there are people here who suffer from crippling anxiety. There are people here who see counselors, psychiatrists, who attend grief support groups, who take medication to help them overcome what plagues them.
I know this because I am one of them. I see a Biblical counselor. I take anti-anxiety medication. I seek help from spiritual mentors.
I know there are people in our churches who – despite all of these things that might help – also know that the only physician, comforter, supporter, that can help them, is the one who promises us that all things work together for the good of those that love him.
Thus God spoke through the book of James that we should count it all joy when we face trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance, and perseverance finishes the work in us that matures us and makes us complete.
And through Paul God told the church in Rome to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, and to rejoice in their sufferings because suffering produces endurance, and endurance character, and character hope.
In the final portions of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he wrote that they should be anxious for nothing. Rather, they should pray and plead to God, presenting their anxieties to Him. Thanking Him – in all circumstances.
From Charles Spurgeon:
Do not fret; do not worry; do not make other people miserable by your fretting and fuming and fussing. You cannot turn one hair white or black, fret as you may. You cannot add a cubit to your stature, be you as anxious as you please. It will be for your own advantage, and it will be for God’s glory, for you to shake off the anxieties which else might overshadow your spirit. Be anxious about nothing, but be prayerful about everything, and be thankful about everything as well.
And when we do?
That peace, that conscious calm, that divine serenity, which is described as the peace of God, is not produced by prayer alone, but by prayer with thanksgiving. If we bless our gracious Lord for the very trouble we pray against; if we bless Him for the very mercy which we need, as though it had already come; if we resolve to praise Him whether we receive the boon or not, learning in whatsoever state we are therewith to be content, then “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
I believe the key is the difference between knowing and believing. I knew my father’s favorite verses. I had them memorized. I memorized Romans 8:28. I knew several of God’s beautiful promises.
Yet, I didn’t believe them. I thought knowing was believing. I found later how very wrong I was.
What worries weigh on you? What foreboding events cause you stress? What worries of this life cause you to anxious?
This is not rhetorical. Sit there. Think about it. What in your life is causing all of the unsettled feelings you have?
And what promises that God has made to all Christians, to YOU, cover your fears? Cover your anxieties? What promises are you knowing, yet not believing?
Do your finances cause you anxiety? Give thanks for what you have, use Biblical instructions to make wise decisions, and fall on your knees crying out to the Lord!
Marriage issues? Give thanks to God for your spouse, use Biblical instructions to make live and love Biblically within your marriage, and fall on your knees crying out to the Lord, making your requests known to Him.
Addiction, abuse, illness, even death – Praise and give thanks to the God who has saved you! Turn your heart to him! Hand it to him! Turn your heart and mind to those things which are pure, honorable, just, and lovely, and fall before the throne of the Great Physician. Our ultimate comforter. The one who promises us so many beautiful things, and GIVE PRAISE TO HIM!