“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.”Philippians 4:6–8 ESV
Don’t worry about anything? Are you crazy? What about COVID-19? What about my job? What about my aged parents? What about my kids stuck at home? What about my portfolio? Indeed, right now there’s a lot we can be tempted to worry about, but Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit teaches, “do not be anxious about anything.” If you’re like me you are suspicious of absolute statements. For example, don’t we cringe when told, “You’re always late,” or “You never listen to me.” But here Paul clearly gives a comprehensive directive: “Do not be anxious about anything.” Surely Paul meant something other than the kind of anxiety that I am experiencing, right?
No, what you and I are worried about today is exactly what he is talking about.
Lots of people suggest that to overcome worry we merely need to “believe in ourselves.” That sounds noble but the persistence of these looming worries demonstrates my frailty and my inability to handle a crisis in my own strength. To say that I should be able to handle a high-pressure situation by myself when I am clearly not handling it well merely makes me worry that much more.
We Need More
Paul understands that we need more than just a directive not to be anxious. He tells us how this is possible: “but in everything,’ by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Fundamentally, Paul is saying, “Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything.” How does this work? How can prayer be such a powerful antidote to worry? Primarily, prayer expands our perspective to remember that the Lord is walking through these troubles with us. This can be difficult to see while we are in the middle of trials but is important to remember at all times.
Paul uses different words for prayer in verse 6. Supplication refers to an urgent specific plea. This is reinforced when he adds “let your requests be made known to God.” I’ve heard some folks say that when they pray they don’t ask for anything for themselves. This might sound very selfless and holy but it is wrong! The prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray includes specific personal requests (Matthew 6:11–13). Requests for daily provision, forgiveness, and protection are quite personal and we are urged to bring them before the Lord regularly. This includes things we are prone to worry about. Do not be reluctant to cry out to the Lord about anything and everything that is weighing on your heart.
In verse 7 Paul tells us the result pouring out our hearts before God: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Notice that he doesn’t promise that your troubles will go away, but he promises that he will give you peace. His peace will guard your heart and your mind—from despair, hopelessness, desperate thoughts, cynicism, bitterness, and even from taking out your anxiety on others.
We who trust in the Lord have no need to worry because we are secure forever (John 10:27–29). Prayer helps us remember this reality and can help eclipse your fears with the comfort of his promises and his presence.
That’s not where Paul stops, however. What are you to think about when you aren’t praying? Verse 8 gives us this encouragement: “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.” Paul is teaching us that, in Christ, we are to develop a new way of thinking. Here Paul gives us a lot to think about instead of worrying. Let’s hone in on one of these exhortations together—whatever is true.
Paul lists this first because it is the most important of all. In these days in which relativism reigns, people are wondering where truth can be found. Is everything just a matter of opinion? Paul reminds us that God is the author of what is true. The truths to which we can anchor our hearts and minds in the storms of life are found in the Scriptures.
Truth You Can Rest in Today
When you are lonely the truth is that God is everywhere. Wherever you are he is with you, even sequestered in your house. “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7–10). The good news is that he is always with you. You are never alone. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV).
When resources are running low the truth is that the Lord created everything and that everything belongs to him. He has also promised to provide for your needs. Every one of God’s people can exclaim with confidence “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1 KJV). A few verses after Paul’s description of the new mindscape he reminds his readers that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). What a great promise. Notice that he hasn’t promised to provide everything that you want but everything that you need. If you lose your job during this crisis, believe the promise that he will take care of you. Jesus promises the same in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25–33).
When you are weak and insecure think about the truth that God is all-powerful. “Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power” (Psalm 21:13). Remember that he created the universe merely by calling it into being with his word. He provides strength to those who trust in him (Philippians 4:13).
That’s right! Paul says “don’t worry about anything” but he also tells you what to do. During these challenging times pray about everything and expect to know his peace. He also tells you what to think about. Don’t allow those worries to keep you awake at night. Proactively feed your mind with truth. Memorize those promises. Hang on to them and by holding on to them you are holding on to him until the storm passes.
Mindscape: What to Think About Instead of Worrying
Mindscape builds a practical action plan for changing your mental landscape—and your life—based on Paul’s rich exhortation in Philippians 4:8. Author Tim Witmer draws from thirty years of experience in helping worried people apply Scripture to their lives to present a clear, biblical, and deeply pastoral guide to replacing worry with a new way of thinking.