So we watched the video podcast of “The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Anxiety” last night and it was so awesome. Pastor Mark often says that the lessons to be learned in the Bible are always timely because they are timeless and it is so true. The Rebel’s Guide to Joy is his sermon series on Philippians and he was teaching from chapter 4:2-9.
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
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.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
He defined anxiety (non-clinically, non-technically) as assuming the worst possible outcome will happen in any given situation and freaking out about it, and said that if you react to a situation with anxiety rather than responding to Jesus you are not being biblical. He said that anxiety is a sin to be repented of not a condition to be managed, that anxiety becomes a functional saviour that, if turned to instead of Christ, becomes a false god. Strong language, I know! But it somehow makes sense. We are called to rejoice in the Lord always. Again, Paul says, REJOICE!!! Don’t rejoice in bad circumstances but rejoice in the Lord because no matter how bad your circumstances may be, God is ALWAYS good and there is always something to praise him for. He goes on to say we shouldn’t be anxious about anything. Anything? ANYTHING! Wow. This is so challenging.
I have felt God’s hand at work in my life in the past few years in this exact area of anxiety. My last few years of high school and the years following were filled with a lot of depression and anxiety and I know I always reacted to my circumstances rather than responding to Jesus. Instead of going to Jesus in prayer until my heart, not my circumstances changed, I would give way to anxiety and FREAK OUT. And it is strange, in these situations, how we feel we can justify all kinds of sin because of our circumstances. “Yes I may have been selfishly angry, bitter, nasty, ________ (fill in the blank), but I have a good reason.” There is never a good reason for sin. I can’t pinpoint an exact turning point, but over the past few years my heart has slowly been turning from an anxious one to one that turns to Jesus in crises and in turn, is filled with peace. I am so thankful for a loving husband who is constantly teaching me about the love of Christ in the way that he loves me and who draws me closer to the Lord as he shows me what godly love looks like. I look at my heart, usually filled with peace in spite of my circumstance of being a young mom with two small boys, and I can’t explain my lack of anxiety in any other way except it is by the grace of God. I am learning to run to Jesus and rejoice in him rather than freak out about my circumstances and life feels so much more full and abundant because of it.
My prayer for you is that in all situations you will bring your heart to Jesus and pray it out until you feel better. He may not change your circumstances, but he will change your heart and make you more and more able to rejoice through the good as well as bad times.