4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I am not particularly good at committing sections of scripture to mind, but this is certainly one that I have been able to readily recall from memory for at least 10 years. I am not the sort of person who suffers from significant anxiety, but I do recognise that there is a very clear reason that “fear not” is the most common command in the Bible!
Having studied some basic psychology, I know that a current, well proven approach to treating anxiety disorders is to use something called “cognitive-behavioural therapy” or CBT I’m probably oversimplifying, but CBT is based on the idea that our minds and our emotions and our behaviours all feed one another, so in order to deal with emotions that are out of control, we need to put effort into managing the thoughts and behaviours that contribute to the emotion.
While CBT is a relatively modern approach to management of anxiety, it is intriguing to see how well Paul understood these same principles. In Romans 12 he calls us to be “transformed by the renewal of our minds” and here in Philippians, he instructs us first to address the way we are thinking to rejoice rather than worry (vs 4) and then he addresses the behaviour side of things by encouraging prayer and petition, and then reminds us about the issue again of our thoughts by adding “with thanksgiving.”
Lord, thank you that you understand our innermost souls and all the things that cause us concern and worry. Thank you that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to overcome our worst fears. We praise you that your perfect love casts out all fear, in Jesus’ name Amen!
Written by Justin Ware