I would characterize myself as a recovering worrywart. Having a highly detailed personality type, I can easily find myself overanalyzing all facets of a particular situation. I walk through every possible scenario in my head, and I can lean toward a pessimistic view of outcomes. Just ask my wife. I’m very analytical. And you may agree with me that when healthy analysis becomes “analysis paralysis,” it can look an awful lot like worry.
I remember how worry affected me as a child. Before a big test, football game, or any other situation in which I would have to perform, I would feel physically sick to my stomach from worry. It wasn’t until college when I heard a sermon on Philippians 4 that I began thinking about worry in a different way. This passage, written by the apostle Paul, gives us a plan that we can live by, especially in times where life’s current circumstances, such as COVID-19, leave us with so many unknowns. So, here are five patterns for peace that you can practice in your own life during troublesome times.
1. Worry about nothing.
Yes, that means worry about absolutely nothing. Sometimes, we can waste so much time worrying about the situation rather than simply doing what we can toward a positive outcome—accepting what’s out of our control and trusting God for the results. Worry can also be emotionally and physically harmful. Worry creates emotional stress, and stress leads to all kinds of physical problems. Worry can harm us spiritually, as well. We don’t often think of worry as a sin (especially in the South, where we’ve almost made it a virtue). But since verse six starts with the imperative, “worry about nothing,” can we agree that an imperative in Scripture is a command? In following the commands of God, we are promised a life that’s full of peace and free from worry.
2. Pray about all things.
Do we really pray about all things, or do we find ourselves just praying about the big things in our lives? God wants us to bring both the big and the small things to Him. I think this is perhaps the idea behind Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing,” placing ourselves in a constant attitude and posture of prayer. We can also trust Him with our cares, because Christ calls us friends. I believe the hymn, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, speaks for itself: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
3. Be thankful for everything.
Paul helps us to realize that it’s impossible to have a thankful spirit and a worried spirit at the same time. You may be thinking, “But, it’s too hard to be thankful when things are really bad right now! COVID-19 is taking a toll on everything!” Let’s remember:
We don’t thank God because things are good; we thank God simply because He is good.
If we’re tempted to worry, we can begin to think about what we’re thankful for and the worry will fade away. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
4. Think on the best things.
God created our minds in a way that we can only focus on one thought at a time. I know there’s debate about whether men or women can multitask better, but I don’t believe any of us can actually think two separate thoughts simultaneously. So, if we’re constantly thinking in the realm of these things in verse eight—things that are true, right, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable—there won’t be room in our minds or our hearts for the things that cause worry.
5. Do the right thing.
One sure cure for worry is to do the work that God has placed before us. When we obey His will and put our faith into action, such as serving our neighbor, showing forgiveness, and staying connected to His church, there will be no time to worry. One of the management models we teach our staff at Brentwood is called “Action TNT.” The principle of this model is that action “today and not tomorrow” is the key to high accomplishment. Perhaps we can say in the context of this message, obedience “today and not tomorrow” is the key to a worry-free life. As verse nine says, “Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in Me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
By making these verses daily patterns in your life, “The peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (verse 7). When we have the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us, what more can we ask for?
So, what are you worried about today? Give it to the God of peace.