The Anatomy of Anxiety
Part 21: Guarding My Relationship to God My Guard
Purpose: Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. We need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.
Spiritual Victory Over Anxiety
1. Acknowledge My False Enslavement to Fear
2. Accept My Grace Connection to My Father
3. Renew My Image of God
4. Live According to My New Identity in Christ
Today, from Philippians 4:6-7 we learn a fifth spiritual principle:
Guard My Relationship to God My Guard
Unfortunately some people, in attempting to “help” the person struggling with anxiety, simply quote the first part of Philippians 4:6 and exhort behavioral conformity. “Stop being anxious!”
Not only does such an admonition fail to speak in love, it fails to speak the truth in context.
The Apostle Paul didn’t pull this fraction of a verse out of thin air; he spoke it in the context of all of Philippians—a relational context, a theological context, a context about ongoing joy in Christ through connection with Christians and with Christ.
We’ll explore that larger context in future posts. For now, we’ll examine the subsequent context.
Paul provides the “instead.” Instead of living with crippling anxiety, put on healing hope. “Live like this, not like that.” Consider the elements necessary to guard our relationship with God our Guard.
“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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul chooses a word for prayer which highlights worshipful prayer focusing on God’s character. In anxiety, we choose a crippling focus on our circumstances. In worshipful prayer, we choose a healing focus on God’s character.
This God-focus is reminiscent of Isaiah 26:3.
“Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.”
“Mind” is the Hebrew word for our imagination. It is our ability to picture our world, to take snap-shot images that summarize our beliefs.
Isaiah repeats “shalom” twice to communicate perfect peace, complete wholeness. We will experience shalom shalom when our imagination is focus faithfully on our faithful heavenly Father.
When we are feeling anxious, God speaks to us and says:
“I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you by my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:9-10).
When we anxiously fear spiritual separation anxiety, we must focus on our image of God Who is our faithful Father Who promises to forever love us in Christ.
We don’t have to live anxious, guarded lives. We don’t have to guard ourselves self-protectively. We don’t have to live self-centered, self-focused lives with stuck vigilance always scanning the horizon fearfully.
We can live unguarded lives because God is our Guard. We can protect others because we know God is our Guard and Protector. We can live other-centered, God-focused lives when we focus on God our faithful Guard.
Making It Real
1. As you fight anxiety, where is your mind focused? Are you choosing a crippling focus on your circumstances, or are you choosing a prayerful focus on God’s character?
2. As you battle worry, focus your imagination on God your Guard Who is your forever faithful Father.
3. As you face and fight fear, do you believe by faith that God Who is faithful has chosen you, will never reject you, will strengthen and help you, and will uphold you?
4. As you strive to be a warrior, not a worrier, are you living an unguarded life because you trust God to be your Guard?
The Rest of the Story
I hope you’re thinking, “Wait a second, Bob! You only looked at one word (‘prayer’) after Paul said ‘Be anxious for nothing.’ You said you were going to explore the rest of the context. I want to hear about supplication, thanksgiving request, peace that passes understanding, hearts and minds guarded in Christ.”
Good catch. And we will look at each of those concepts.
But just think…one little word “prayer” explored in context says volumes about spiritual victory over anxiety. God’s Word is sufficient! Sufficient when studied biblically and applied personally for all things that pertain to life and godliness—including victory over anxiety.
So…return for our next post to enjoy and apply more of Philippians 4:6-7, in context, to your life context.