November 26, 2013
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Those who don’t have much, who are scraping by, can easily become anxious. And yet, anxiety does not afflict only those who are in great need. There are plenty of people who have plenty and yet are riddled with anxiety.
The apostle Paul’s direct exhortation is “do not be anxious about anything.” That’s easy to say. It’s hard to do. Even as Christians we suffer anxiety. Paul does not say how not to be anxious. He just says, “Don’t be anxious.” About anything.
But he does give a contrary exhortation: “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Do not be anxious about anything but in everything let your requests be made known to God. We are not to be anxious about anything. Conversely, in everything we are to make our requests known to God.
On further pondering, perhaps Paul is telling us how to not be anxious about anything. It is by prayer and supplication. It is by not dwelling on those things we are anxious about but rather bringing them to God in prayer.
But Paul is very specific about the prayer we offer to God. Anxiety is not simply to be done away with. Prayer to God is not simply to take its place. The kind of prayer and supplication in which we make our requests made known to God is prayer with thanksgiving. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
This is the antidote to anxiety. Thanksgiving. You are not to be anxious about anything and you are to make your requests known to God in everything. The way you do this is by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.
When you are anxious you are caught up in what is afflicting you. When you are giving thanks, and that is in everything, there’s no opportunity for anxiety to wedge itself in. You are too busy being thankful to God in everything to be anxious. You are too filled with gratitude to consider how you are overly concerned about what is afflicting you.
Paul is not saying to ignore those things in life that are trials. Far from it. Rather than ignore, we pray! Rather than ignore those things, we give thanks for them!
That’s easy to say. It’s easy to do a New Year’s resolution kind of thing and say, “Okay, next time I’m distressed and fall into anxiety I’m going to pray instead. Instead of worrying or getting caught up in my trials, I am going to give thanks in them.” Just like so many resolutions, these attempts will quickly fall by the wayside. You will dwell on those things afflicting you. You will be anxious about them. You will forget to pray or you will be too weary, or perhaps wary, to pray. You certainly will not feel like being thankful for these trials!
So what will you do? Will you hear the words of St. Paul, do not be anxious about anything, and quickly fall into despair because you can’t overcome your anxiety by attempting to heed the exhortation? You very well may if you hear this exhortation as, You’d better turn things around you ungrateful Christian.
His exhortation is one of grace. His exhortation is one of showing you the better way. The way of anxiety leads only to being overcome by the things you’re anxious about. Being ungrateful, even for trials, only leads to not seeing that God is gracious and merciful.
The way of prayer, that is, prayer with thanksgiving, is the way in which you see that even those things you’d rather not endure are blessings from God. Because there’s another blessing He gives that you could not see otherwise.
It is the peace of God. You cannot see it otherwise because it goes beyond your ability to get a handle on it. You think you can’t overcome your trials? You’re right. And that’s a good thing. Because it’s only by the peace of God in which you will be able to not be anxious but rather rest in His grace and mercy. It is only by the peace of God that you will be guarded in your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
That’s the blessing He gives you. But it also shows you how God works this way. Namely, in Christ Jesus. In Jesus overcoming every trial that comes your way. In Jesus accomplishing what He does so that you are granted peace.
It’s not just a nice thought to be thankful in all things, including your trials. Jesus is the actual basis for you to be able to be thankful in all things. In becoming man He endured far more than we could ever imagine. The trials He endured would bring us to our knees in helplessness and despair. We would quickly see that anything we go through is a wisp compared to His suffering He endured in our place.
Through everything—His life, suffering, and death—Jesus never despaired. He was never anxious. He only gave thanks. He prayed and made supplication with thanksgiving and made His requests known to God His Heavenly Father.
Because of this, His peace, peace that surpasses all understanding, guards your heart and your mind in Him. Amen.