Do not be anxious



"...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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. 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 4:6-9 ESV)

Many years ago, during my seminary training, I took a practicum in pastoral counseling, taught by our Chaplain, Bill Bryan. We spent time going over Scripture passages, relevant truths, and various skills he found useful in giving pastoral care to church members.

One passage that he found so helpful in ministry, especially with those struggling with fears or anxiety, was Philippians chapter 4. After years of ministry, I have found this outline to be so helpful, too. 

He would lead his counselee through a study of Philippians 4, verses 6 through 9, and he would use, as a memory device five words all beginning with the letter P. He called these the "Five Peas in a Pod". 

Briefly, here is how he taught this...

1) Pray (v 6). Anxiety, or feelings of fear, are a signal for us to go to God in prayer. Instead of toiling and worrying over matters we should take these things to our heavenly Father. We should bring our feelings of fear to him, but also be specific in petitioning him for the needs and concerns we are facing. 

2) Praise (v 6). When we pray, we should also thank God for his work in and around us. (Chaplain Bill used "praise" to summarize the phrase, "with thanksgiving".) So first, we thank God for all the good things going on in our life in the present, as well as the past. Anxiety tends to narrow our perspective and we need to recall to our minds, and thank God for, all the many answered prayers we have experienced. But we need to go further and thank him even for our current distress, knowing that these things are allowed by God for our good and his glory. 

3) Peace (v 7). This is a promise that God will grant us his peace, and this peacefulness is what preserves (guards) our minds in confidence rather than fear. God gives us a sound mind that we may overcome our fears. 

4) Positive thoughts (v 8). The "positive" is a summary of the various things we are to fill our minds with. Often, when we go to God with our fears, thanking him for his goodness and power, and then we receive peacefulness of God in our hearts, our minds will stop their anxious churning. But then our now-stilled thoughts may revert back to thinking over the problems again. That's why it's important to divert our thoughts and fill our minds with good things, such as Scripture reading, meditating on truth to combat the lies of the god of this world, observing and enjoying the beauty of nature, fellowship with encouraging friends, praying for others, and engaging in wholesome diversion.

5) Practice (v 9). After we've prayed... praised... found peace... filled our mind with positive things, we may still revert to worry and anxious thoughts. So, we need to start back over and practice the P's once again. We may have to cycle through this list many times even in one day. This is a discipline that is meant to be practiced whenever we face anxiety.

I've used this list many, many times throughout my pastoral career, both for myself and with others. Matthew chapter 6 and 1 Peter chapter 5, also, are good chapters to study when facing fears. 


 

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