Updated: Mar 10, 2022
Are You serious, God? Be anxious for nothing? Are You sure you mean nothing?
Are You aware of what's happening down here right now, God? Big stuff. Big, troubling stuff. Or even in my own life? Do You know about that?
What about x, God? Do You know about y? And are You aware of n?
(Sigh, my algebra is showing!) Whatever variable you plug in, He knows. He knows the variable, the whole equation, even the product. Now that I've exhausted that metaphor...Yes, of course He knows all about all those things, and yet we're told to be anxious for nothing.
I unpacked this verse in a couple of my Facebook "Pause.Pray.Pause." videos last fall.
Note that depending on the translation, the verse begins with "Don't be anxious." This is more direct command than mere suggestion.
Honestly, that leaves me feeling a little anxious because I do sometimes feel anxious. Does that mean God is disappointed that I'm anxious? No! There's no condemnation in Christ and He’s merciful and compassionate.
I do believe the next verse offers helpful insight.
Paul invites us to bring our requests with supplication and thanksgiving.
Supplication means begging. Begging. Humble, earnest begging.
I'm normally only spurred to supplication by anxiety. I don't typically get to a begging posture or frame of mind without some variation of despair, normally born of worry, aka anxiety.
In my experience, getting to a place of earnest, humble begging-level discomfort signals I've come to the end of myself. That often only happens after much effort and angst. With time and experience comes the wisdom that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5), allowing us to bypass or shortcut this rough route.
Prayer undertaken in this humble posture seems to usher in this "peace that surpasses understanding." I've experienced this process over and over again. It's when we've been bested by circumstances, or ourselves, that we're ready to earnestly ask for help.
God, who's been there along, rushes in with amazing grace. We've made room for Him to work and it's then that we can experience surpassing peace. Often, we also get God-sized miraculous solutions to whatever ails us.
Sincere thanksgiving is another step in Paul's proposed pathway to peace (v.6.). Genuine thanksgiving--not the obligatory, perfunctory thank you note--springs from a place of humility, too. Sometimes, it comes from the awed gratitude for mercy and grace.
I'll bet you Stevie's mom was worried sick when her baby boy was born six weeks premature in 1950 and as a result, soon became blind. It all turned out OK.
I know I just wrote about the perfect peace that's accessible to us in Christ. I believe it's really true. But it's obviously not always easy, accessing this sweet Jesus peace.
In fact, could it really be that the road to transcendent peace, is paved with angst-inspired begging and heartfelt appreciation, just as Paul describes?
Now, I will also say that it's been my experience that this surpassing peace is accrued, bankable, and transferable. What I mean is once you've been at the end of your rope a bit and seen God show up when all seemed lost, you can access this peace more readily. You have a storehouse of peace from which to draw.
I've heard it said that anxiety may be the best thing we have going because it keeps us on our knees, in liberating right relationship with God Almighty.
I don't like it any more than anyone.
Whether you're looking at problem headlines or under your own roof, I hope you can bypass anxiety to enjoy Christ's perfect, surpassing peace. If not, I hope you'll let the anxiety lead you to His loving arms and, in turn, His peace.
Grace & peace,