The Antidote for Anxiety

by Daniel Rieke

It’s interesting how anxiety can rule me at times. I run countless scenarios through my head of what could go wrong, what I should’ve said, what people think of me, or what I wish would happen.

I know intellectually the truth of what we teach our Hope Kids: “Worrying doesn’t do any good. It can’t change anything. It only makes us feel bad.”

And yet to my shame, I worry. A lot. About far too many things.

And to make matters worse, my anxiety (i.e. my lack of trust in God) actually steals glory from God and gives it to the enemy because all of my actions either give glory to God or to Satan; therefore, anxiety is far from a “little sin.”

Fortunately, God’s Word gives us the antidote for anxiety in Philippians chapter 4, which I’ll be examining in this post.

[4] Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. [5] Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; [6] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

[8] 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. [9] What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9 (ESV)[1]

Commands we see in Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord all the time (v.4)

Be known by everyone as reasonable. Other translations say “gentle” (v.5)

Do not worry about anything (v.6)

Pray about everything (v.6)

Pray with thankfulness (v.6)

Ask God explicitly for what we need (v.6)

The result of obedience to those commands:

We get God's peace (v.7)

God's peace will guard my heart and my mind (v.7), presumably protecting me from lack of joy in God (v.4), unreasonableness (v.5), anxiety (v.6), and prayerlessness (v.6)

A few things we see about this peace that God provides:

God's peace defies human logic or understanding (v.7)

God's peace is rooted in Jesus (v. 7)


Now, in the context of this passage, the peace Paul is referring to seems to be centered on trusting God with our worry, fear, and anxiety. However, there is a deeper peace to consider, which is foundational to all others: our peace with God. Without this peace, all other “peace” would simply be unimportant, as we would still be at odds with the God of the universe.

We know from other passages, such as Colossians 1:20 and Isaiah 53:5, that peace with God is found specifically and exclusively in the cross of Christ. So the source of our ultimate peace is rooted in the gospel: we have peace with God because we have been forgiven all of our sin against God (including anxiety, prayerlessness, and failure to rejoice in God) through faith in Jesus.

We have peace because Jesus fully satisfied the wrath of God for our sin when He died on the cross. Jesus’ perfect life made Him the perfect sacrifice to die as a substitute in the place of every person who would ever call upon Him in faith to be saved. We have peace with God through faith in the perfect work of Jesus to count in our place.

And that is something to rejoice in!

Paul continues with more wisdom for the war against anxiety in the next two verses…

Commands we see in Philippians 4:8-9

Think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (v.8)

It seems that these qualities we are commanded to think about are another weapon for warring against anxiety, unreasonableness, and a lack of joy in God.

It also seems that all of these qualities are attributable to God, so the command could actually be interpreted as an exhortation to dwell on God, who is the perfect fulfillment of all of these characteristics.

Therefore, to be free from worry, to be free from unreasonableness, to be free to rejoice in God, we should meditate on thoughts of God.

Live out (i.e. make a practice of) what we observe in Paul's Christian life (v.9), which would presumably include the list of qualities listed in verse 8, since Paul aims to imitate Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1) and Jesus perfectly fulfills this list of qualities.

The result of obedience to these commands:

The God of peace will be with me (v.9)

In other words, I get God, which consequently means I get peace, because He is the ultimate source of peace. He is, after all, “the God of peace” (v.9)

So the main weapon God gives us to resist anxiety: think about Him.

If my thoughts are consumed with the majesty, grace, power, truth, sovereignty, holiness, excellence, and love of God, there will be no room for anxious thoughts about my own (relatively insignificant) life.

In other words, God calls me to look outside of myself and past my problems and my fears and my own life, and to instead look at Him. By dwelling on the beauty and glory of God, my anxiety fades into the background.

God graciously gives us the antidote for anxiety: Himself.

 

Other helpful passages to study on worry, anxiety, and fear

1 Peter 5:6-11

Psalm 37

Psalm 55:22

Matthew 6:25-34

Romans 8

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.