Nathan Liddell preached a great chapel lesson today from Luke 2:52. Along the way, he talked about the preacher's need to protect his figurative heart. He cited the great formula for overcoming anxiety found in Philippians 4:6-9. He is right. Notice what Paul wrote there.
"Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
Anxiety is a common mental ailment. The 2003 U.S. Census bureau determined, based on our country's estimated population of 176.4 million people between 18-64 years old, that anxiety disorders cost an annual $42.3 billion to treat. 13.3% of the population is said to have some type of anxiety disorder, an approximate 23.4 million people. Anxiety disorders take in depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Many people develop more than one disorder. This is the most common mental health problem in the U.S. (all via depressionperception.com). Do you think that Paul's inspired counsel could help with this? Consider what he suggests in our text.
PRAYER (6). It is what Paul suggests as the substitute for anxiousness. He says not to engage in the one but to pour oneself into the other. By having God shoulder the load, the burden is lighter. He is able to do anything and everything. We need to petition His help.
PRESCRIPTION (7). Paul promises divine guidance in our lives as we give ourselves to prayer. I am not making judgments on when medicine is or is not needed in treating stress-induced mental problems, but Paul is saying that the prescription must include staying attached to Christ and the peace we enjoy in Him.
PROPER PONDERING (8). You are the product of your thoughts. Shad Helmstetter wrote an entire book on this subject entitled, What to Say When You Talk to Yourself. In it, he said, "All of us talk to ourselves all of the time. Our self-talk may be in spoken words or unspoken thoughts. It can take the form of feelings, impressions, or even worldess physical responses...We are thinking machines that never shut down" (36). But, what are we thinking? Paul tells us to employ positive, pure thoughts that exalt the Lord's cause and lift our own lives. You think about the things suggested here and you attack anxiety at its roots.
PRACTICE (9). All the thinking in the world will not lead to peace. We need to pick out good role models for apparent mental and spiritual health, then follow them. We need to enact the Christ-life in our personal lives. When we are busy doing what the Lord wants, we can find purpose and lose the panic.
I am not trying to oversimplify real, medical, and physiological issues. Yet, let no one discount the divine diagnosis and directions. Following Paul's urging in this text will help us move from panic to peace, if we will put it to work in our lives!