“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition [humble and earnest asking], 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.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me [Paul, author of Philippians] – put it into practice. And the God of peace [contentment, fulfillment, security] will be with you.”
-Philippians 4:4-9 (emphasis and additions mine)
Goodness, I love this passage.
And maybe you’ve read it many times – but I like to go back and read it with fresh eyes as though it is an official instruction manual for my heart and mind.
(Maybe that’s just the type-A, always-loves-a-good-plan part of me. But it works!)
I have this passage written down on an index card in the form of a checklist (type-A again, folks!):
- Give the worry to God
- Give thanks
- Think about what is true.
Then, when I start to worry, I pull the card out and remind myself to give my worry to One who loves me most.
Or, in other words, I kick that anxious thought right in the pants! WABAM!!! (Also, can you tell I work with kids? I literally just did the slicing-the-air motion with my arm. I think I might be heavily influenced right now by the new ninja moves I’m learning).
Anyway, I’m not a very practical person – emotions are like, way better (kidding! sort of.) – but sometimes it’s good to have plain old practical advice. Here are two practical heart and mind “ninja moves” (I can’t get over this ninja theme!), that I like to use to kick worry to the curb. 🙂
1. The What-If’s and Worst Case Scenarios
Typically, if I have an anxious thought that won’t leave me alone and preoccupies my mind, it’s a “what-if” scenario.
I’m sure you know the thoughts well:
“What if she thinks _______? What if they don’t like _______? What if I do something wrong? What if_______ happens?”
Clearly, these thoughts need a good karate chop.
So when I realize I’m playing a what-if on repeat in my mind, then I look back at my heart instructions from Philippians 4:8:
Paul writes, “Whatever is true…think about such things” (Phil 4:8).
Because you know what?
“What-ifs” are not true! That’s why they’re called, “what-ifs” instead of “reality!”
So we shouldn’t even worry about them!
Whew! Praise God, right?
(Because what-ifs can be downright scary. Especially if you’re a creative type like me and think up scenarios for a living).
So why worry and focus on what-if scenarios as though they are true?
Because God, in His lovingkindness, has shown us what to focus on instead.
He instructs us to focus on “what is true.” Not on what we’re afraid might happen.
Karate chop number one, folks!
2. The Power of Giving Thanks
If you’ve read any of my posts, or if you’ve ever heard me talk… pretty much ever, then you know I love the writer, blogger, and photographer, Ann Voskamp.
God has blessed and used her book 1,000 Gifts to truly change my heart and my life.
1,000 Gifts beautifully illustrates the importance of giving thanks to God.
Voskamp says, “It is impossible to feel thankful and anxious at the same time. So we must choose to give thanks.”
Do you see the beautiful gift we have here, friends? That we can choose the path of life instead of the path of worry simply by choosing to give thanks?
And not only is a mindset of thankfulness an open window and fresh air for our hearts, but giving thanks is a command from our Perfectly Loving Father.
Looking back at our heart instructions, Paul writes:
“…with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6).
How beautiful. That very sentence makes my heart sing! Not only are we free to give thanks, but we must give thanks! What a delightful charge.
And yet, how often do we all skip over the “with thanksgiving” part and head straight to the “present your requests to God” part?
…Yeah, me too.
Because when I’m worried, I am not in the mood to focus on things I am thankful for.
And so, I must choose. We must all choose to give thanks in those times of worry.
I also ask God for His help.
And then, quietly but surely, my heart and mind start to think calmly and hopefully while I give thanks.
If you’ve never prayed prayers of thanksgiving when you’re worried, I find it helpful to start off by telling God thank You for the truth about who He is.
We can thank Him for all these things because they are written in scripture, so they are the truest of true:
God is good and faithful (Lamentations 3:22-23),
He is all-knowing and all-powerful (Isaiah 55:8-9, Psalm 139: 1-6),
He is perfectly loving (Psalm 23:6, John 3:16, Psalm 103:8) .
He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11).
And then, with a heart growing calmer and steadier through the giving of thanks, I love to move on to thank Him for fuzzy socks and cat purrs and then sometimes cat bites and space heaters and chocolate chip cookie dough and the small but beautiful gifts like those.
And I’ve learned through experience that a thankful heart opens the door to let God’s peace come in, displace the worry, and strengthen the faith.
Karate chop number 2! WABAM!!! (I felt the sound effect was warranted again. Thankfulness makes me so happy!! What can I say?)
Friends, if you are like me, and you get caught in the net of worrying way too much, you are in good company!
Remember how Jesus walked on water that one time, and Peter got out of the boat to walk toward him, but then Peter got scared – started to worry – and so then he started to sink? I love how even Peter, a man who is looking right at Jesus, a man who gets to touch Him and talk to Him in person, who is His very apostle, and who is called “Blessed” by Jesus in a conversation with Him, still struggles with feeling anxious. I also love how even though Peter became anxious, Jesus reached out and saved him. Jesus did not let him sink.
Perfect Love Who desires us to “Cast all [our] anxiety on Him because He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7, modifications mine).
Now, in a very serious conclusion, if you ever get stuck and are drawing a blank about something to be thankful for, hear this:
“And on that day, God made bacon and said, ‘Men, I love you.’ And then He made chocolate and said, ‘Women, I love you too.’” – Michael.
I like to think God laughs at our jokes sometimes. 🙂
There is ALWAYS bacon, chocolate, and the never-ending love of the God who loves you more than life!
Blessings, peace, karate chops, and bacon and chocolate to you,