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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Thanksgiving Day is a time set aside for us to acknowledge our gratitude and thanks to God and those around us for the bounty and blessings we have received. If over the last year our bosses gave us a bonus, we give thanks. If our children or spouses have been healthy and successful, we give thanks. Thanksgiving Day is almost 100% about expressing heartfelt gratitude for things we have received.

And, this is exactly the right thing to do. However, the Apostle Paul offers a new perspective on giving thanks that leads to banishment of fear and anxiety. In addition, the fear and anxiety is replaced with a peace that defies understanding…and the key to it is…giving thanks!

When we read the above listed passage from Philippians, we notice that we are instructed to not be anxious about anything…that would include, but not be limited to…our finances, our health, our jobs, our marriages or relationships…or absence of the same. It means giving up our fears about our children, grandchildren, and sons in prison or the drugs that assault our schools every day.

Paul teaches us to do three things: pray…petition (request, implore, plead) and give THANKS! Now, we certainly GET the first two…but most of us feel Paul has got the third thing wrong. How can we give thanks for something we have yet to receive? Are we supposed to thank God for an outcome that we are not sure is correct? Paul must have this one out of place…surely we should wait until we know what God’s answer is BEFORE we offer up Thanksgiving to God for His answer?

But Paul has not got it wrong. To receive the blessings of peace and rest, we need to trust God and do all three things. This means that we give THANKS to God for His answer to our prayers BEFORE we know the answer! This faith and trust in His provision signals to God that we are willing to acknowledge that His answers to prayer are better than our expectations…that HE WILL GET IT RIGHT! Faith that delivers freedom from anxiety and fear begins with the faith and trust that prays this prayer: “God hear the prayer that I would have prayed, if I had all your information.”

Let this Thanksgiving Day be one where we offer up praise and thanks for answers yet unknown…and live with adequacy knowing God has our back!

 

To paraphrase author Stephen Coveyladder, “Nothing is worse than climbing the ladder of success, only at the top to find it is leaning against the wrong building.” What this aphorism means is that many of us go through life trying to amass the biggest piles of sand in hope of finding our identity and significance through stuff! This is a fool’s game that reminds all of us hamster lovers that the “hamster wheel” of life goes nowhere…

What happens to us when we chase love, career success, a certain body weight number, perfect skin or money? We feel anxious and discontented and don’t know why. We don’t understand why we don’t feel indescribable JOY when we get the man or woman of our dreams, the promotion we slaved over, see the scale register the number we crave or receive a bonus check larger than we ever dared dream. We feel empty, anxious and unfulfilled. Why?

The answer is found in Covey’s quote and its paraphrase. We are chasing the wrong things. We are looking for something that is good…money, love, self-esteem etc. to be our God. We are allowing good things become ultimate things. In short, we are replacing God on the thrones of our hearts with these things…and more and expecting them to do for us what only God can do!

We are made by God the Father, for relationship with Him. He reconciled us to Him when Jesus died on the cross (see Power of the Cross). He is waiting for us to find our rest, purpose, peace and joy by coming in surrender to His will for our lives. St. Augustine felt this very strongly when he wrote these words, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until if finds it rest in thee.” (Confessions)

The true way to getting rid of anxiety and finding contentment is to surrender to His will for our lives. To realize that God has a unique purpose for each one of us and a specific reason we are here on earth. An assignment to further His will here on Earth. The Creator of the Universe is calling us to participate with Him as He marches out His plan for the world. When we seek to know His will for our live, and forsake the craving of stuff, we will find ourselves wanting to “give” more than “receive.” We will experience the “joy” that comes from “service” to others, on the model of Christ. We will find the peace, contentment and rest that comes from realizing the God loves us, unconditionally.

AnxietyWhy do we feel anxious about the future? Why are we waking up at 3:30 A.M. worrying about the kids, the job, the bills, our marriage or the fact that we are not married? We obsess about the future and fret about things we cannot control. And, we do these things in the face of Paul’s assurances that God has all these areas of our life covered. Take a look at Philippians 4: 6-7, below:

 “Do NOT be anxious about anything, but in EVERY situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that exceeds all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Emphasis added]

The reason we read this passage and still fret and worry and are anxious is simply because we are not sure that if we really, truly surrender our fears, worries and concerns to God that He will get it right! We don’t really TRUST Him to know what is best for us and our kids and our net worth.

Yet look closely at what Paul is teaching. He instructs us to give every concern to God in prayer. He coaches us to make the long list of petitions or requests for God. Paul is not backing up here and scolding us for asking God for stuff. But then there is this pesky word…thanksgiving… Paul must have just misplaced this word when he wrote this. After all, we know that we must be thankful after God answers our prayers, right? But no! Paul is placing that word exactly where it should be…before we receive God’s answers to laundry list of wishes. Paul is instructing us to be thankful to God for His answers, before we even find out what they are. Paul is telling us to be thankful for God’s leading and bounty and discipline or whatever His answers will be BEFORE we know them and judge them according to our yardstick of acceptance. We must trust that God knows what is best for us.

Our prayer should perhaps end with this statement: “God, please hear the prayer I would have prayed if I had all your information.”

When Paul writes of the peace of God that defies human understanding and that will guard our hearts he is using military language. When a friendly army surrounded a city, the inhabitants of the city slept peacefully. If we had Seal Team 6 patrolling the perimeter of our yard at night, we would sleep like babies. But that is the type of peace of which Paul is assuring us.

In Al-Anon the slogan, “Let Go and Let God” is used. Use it here. We can alleviate the stress of anxiety and worry by really trusting that God knows our every need and will get our requests right…even if we don’t think so in the short term. Let God do His thing!


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Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
    Hebrews 13:3

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     1 John 3:18

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