My daughter loves to try and do things on her own, even things she doesn’t have the strength or knowledge to accomplish. Often she’ll work at it, and work it, only to throw her hands in the air and give up. I’m prone, during those times, to remind her that all she needs to do is ask, and dad will be glad to help her take care of it. That’s what I’m there for. When she asks, I go to work, on her behalf because I’m her daddy and I love her.
Philippians 4:6-7 is among the more precious promises in all of scripture.
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Did you catch that first admonition? Don’t worry about anything. Those are pretty strong expectations. Particularly in a culture where we worry about everything. Some of us reading this worry because we don’t have anything to worry about. Worry seems a bit inherent in our hearts. The problem is, our worry reflects a lack of belief that God is God, and that God is good. When we worry, what we fail to realize is that our worry is an indication of a denial of God’s authority, and a lack of belief that God really does cause, “all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” What’s more, our worry is a wasted endeavor. We worry, and yet scripture reminds us that our worry does not add anything to our lives. (Matthew 6:25-31) Like my daughter, we worry, and we worry, and we worry and yet we don’t have the strength, authority or wisdom to accomplish what needs to be done. We worry, nothing happens, and we worry some more. Yet, somehow we convince ourselves that our worry is a good thing. As if we are adding to the solution by worrying. In fact, we often think our worry is a good sign, a sign of care and affection. So, when we worry, we don’t help solve any problems, our worry usually compounds, and our worry works against our spiritual growth as we reflect a lack of trust in God.
So what is the appropriate response? Paul tells us that the appropriate response is to take our requests to God. We do this for the same reason my daughter should ask me for help when she can’t handle something. We can’t handle it, but God can. Our commitment to take concerns to him shows faith in His love and benevolent work on our behalf. What’s more, the passage points out that we are supposed to take our concerns to him with “thanksgiving.” Why thanksgiving? There are a host of reasons, truthfully. We are thankful because God is sovereign over all things. We are thankful because God is gracious and loving, and desires to work for our good and his glory. We are thankful because, even though we cannot carry problems on our own, he can and he desires to. So, when we are receiving the body blows; when the world seems to crumble around us, we take our concerns to him, with thanksgiving, and he moves on our behalf.
Then comes the most glorious part of the passage, in my mind. As we move from our worry to his providential care, the bible tells us that God will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. He will stand guard, on our behalf, helping us to not only trust him, but to do so joyfully. Remember that these two verses are located in the middle of a larger passage where we are being reminded that God causes joy in the hearts of his children. His work on our behalf, in the midst of the storm, is intended to continue to build that joy in our hearts. It is why Job could say, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh.” in Job 1:21. It’s why Job would also go on to say, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.” It is why Horatio Spafford, after the loss of his four daughters, ages 11, 9, 5 & 2, on a sunken ship, could stand on the deck of another ship, over the very spot where his daughters drowned, and pen these words:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
In difficult situations, the temptation to deny God, and worry, is strong. Our response, however, is to trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, to place our hope and faith in our good God, and to take our concerns to him, knowing that when we do, his promise is to guard our hearts and our minds in his son, Christ Jesus. I can’t think of a greater hope than that.