We’re living in an anxious time. The recent election. Our economy. Shootings. Terrorism. The polarization of our nation.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the midst of all of the chaos. Our children and grandchildren face an uncertain future. You might be asking, “Where is God?”
Paul knew a thing or two about living in an anxious time. Christians were being persecuted. Paul himself was writing from prison. And yet, in the middle of overwhelming circumstances, he commands believers to not be anxious (a pretty provocative commandment).
Paul isn’t saying you’re in sin if you feel nervous, or even anxious at times. Jesus felt so much anxiety before the cross that He sweat drops of blood! What Paul means is that we can’t give in to our anxiety. We can’t let it control us. We can’t allow it to paralyze us or drag us into cynicism. We can’t allow it to cause us to commit irrational or even harmful deeds out of desperation. Above all, we can’t allow anxiety to take our eyes off Jesus. Instead, Paul says the antidote to anxiety is prayer with thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving (the word, not the holiday) means exactly what it sounds like—giving thanks. It is stopping to acknowledge you have been given a gift and then expressing that gratitude. There’s something special about a truly gracious heart that overflows with words of thanks. In such a heart, there is no room for crippling anxiety.
Anxiety is often connected to the fact that we have a narrow perspective. We can’t see the future. We can’t see a possible solution. We can’t see a way out. No wonder our nerves are frayed! If you’re in that position, you need a new way of seeing things.
If you stop and reflect on what you’re thankful for, it allows you to broaden your perspective to see the bigger picture—to remember God. When you give thanks, you are acknowledging that there is a sovereign God in control, One who cares for you and has given you an abundance of grace already.
Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26, ESV). When you shift your eyes off your circumstances to focus instead on how God cares for you, you’ll realize there is nothing to be afraid of.
It is funny and sad how often we only stop to think about what we’re thankful for when it’s late November. But giving thanks shouldn’t happen just once a year. It should be daily and constant. A thousand Thanksgivings a day. Commit yourself to cultivating a thankful heart in every moment and anxiety will not find a place to take root.
Paul writes that if you commit yourself to pray with thanksgiving, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Remember, Paul wrote these words from prison. He didn’t know if he was ever going to be free, or if he would even survive. But Paul was still able to cultivate a heart of thankfulness and find peace. What an amazing testimony to the power of God’s peace that He offers.
A thankful heart knows that if God cares for the birds, He will also care for you. A thankful heart makes an effort every day to recognize the signs of God’s grace. A thankful heart is a peaceful heart—a heart guarded from anxiety.
This is all easier said than done, but it’s a struggle worth having. The times where you least feel like praying are probably the most important times for you to pray.
Your life may be chaotic. You may feel overwhelmed under life’s circumstances. But even in the darkest of moments, God offers peace that passes all understanding.
And that is something you can truly be thankful for.