When Amazon released a list of the most highlighted passages in its bestselling books, including the Bible, I was curious to see which verses would rank as the most popular in America. I expected John 3:16, Psalm 23, or the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. But, no, it was Philippians 4:6-7: 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.
This is a passage I’ve underscored in my own Bible, and it’s a portion of a paragraph I’ve memorized. These words shore up my sanity, because I’ve battled anxiety from childhood. Nothing grips my spirit like worry. It’s like a spider spinning webs of worry in my mind and tightening the strings.
Part of my battle with anxiety, I believe, is genetic. I inherited a stray genetic particle from my mother’s side of the family, and that gene sometimes mutates into a germ that wreaks havoc with my nervous system. But I can’t blame it all on DNA. Worry is a rational response to real pressures and problems. Life is harder than we expect, and even the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace Himself, admitted, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
We’re anxious people because we have a lot to be anxious about. We’re spinning on a planet filled with a million dangers. We face scores of daily stresses and distresses, which often come uninvited and unanticipated. We have multiplied fears for our children, our loved ones, our families, our churches, our nation, our world, and ourselves. We have valid concerns about our health and finances, about our safety and our security.
Anxiety disorders comprise the most common mental illness in America. According to the New York Times, Americans are among the most anxious people on earth. The Times reported a study by the World Mental Health Survey that found Americans the most anxious people in the fourteen nations covered by the research and were significantly more anxious than residents of nations like Nigeria, Lebanon, and Ukraine. We spend billions of dollars every year on anti-anxiety medications and additional millions to fund research into the causes and cures for anxiety disorders.
We need professional counselors, therapists, doctors, and people with giftings of wisdom to help us. Mental illness is treatable at all its levels, and modern science offers helpful solutions. Nutrition, exercise, rest, and good habits make big differences in how we handle stress. Prescribed medication, used wisely, can play a role in our healing. The right therapists and counselors can be literal lifesavers.
But medical treatment alone is incapable of reaching the hidden depths of the soul. We need a house call from the Great Physician and a good dose of His therapeutic truth. The Bible is our Lord’s prescription pad, and meditation helps more than medication. The frequent contemplation of Scripture heals the mind better than the wisest counselor or the newest drug. To steady our minds in the storm, medical and psychological treatment programs must be anchored on a rock that keeps the soul steadfast and sure.
Philippians 4 is the Bible’s premier passage on overcoming anxiety and experiencing His overwhelming peace, and that’s why it’s currently America’s go-to passage of Scripture. In my book, Worry Less, Live More, which is based on Philippians 4:4-9, I write, “Worry pulls your mind apart, like a man being drawn and quartered. It rips and ruptures your thoughts and feelings. It makes you feel like you’re being torn in two. What should do that to us? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! The older translations of the Bible say emphatically: ‘In nothing be anxious….’ In a Book of remarkable statements, this one is near the top. Nothing should agitate us because nothing can separate us from the love of a God for whom nothing is impossible. The better we grasp the boundless sovereignty of God, the less we’ll worry about the everyday burdens of life. If we anchor our hearts in the bottomless depths of Christ’s love, nothing can capsize us.”
It’s time for you to wage war on worry with the weapons provided in God’s unfailing Word. On the basis of Scripture, you can live more, worry less, and give each day a happier turn. You can bury worry before worry buries you. Take these words seriously, as if the Lord Himself were speaking them audibly to you and addressing you by name: 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.
Memorize these words, and train your mind to quote them when you wake up in the middle of the night. Speak them aloud as you begin your day. Write them on your dressing table or office desk. Recite them when you feel your chest tightening. Meditate on them day and night, pondering, personalizing, and practicing them. Earnest, heartfelt, biblical prayer is the method by which we transfer our legitimate worries into the Lord’s mighty hands. As we turn our worries over to Him, He goes to work on them, and He is able to guard the things we entrust to Him.
It’s not just a suggestion. Philippians 4:4-6 is a command, and it is the duty of every child of God to learn how to displace worrisome thoughts with restorative strength through prevailing prayer, and to do it in every situation.
Practice this passage for peace of mind, let its words reshape your spiritual DNA, and you will learn to bury worry before worry buries you.