Fear. Anxiety. Depression. These are words of which we wish we never had to think or speak. Unfortunately, these heartaches are often a reality in our lives. How do we face the hardships of life without living in a deep pit of fear, anxiety, and depression?
Paul’s counsel to the Philippians helps us amidst the stresses and difficulties of life. Consider these insights from Philippians 4:4-9.
First, have the right attitude. In verse 4, Paul reminds the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. It isn’t that the Philippians would rejoice over bad things that were happening. No, they should rejoice in the Lord. They reflect on the fact that in Christ, they have forgiveness, a new identity, a certain future, and countless more blessings. For this reason, the Philippians are commanded to rejoice, and this reminds us that we must strive for a right attitude.
Second, have a merciful spirit toward others. In verse 5, Paul urges the Philippians to be gracious toward others. They should strive to show mercy to people in weakness instead of having a critical spirit. A person who continually focuses on the failings of others isn’t going to be filled with God’s peace or joy.
Third, do not worry. In verse 6, Paul commands the Philippians not to be anxious. This means that believers shouldn’t be weighted down by angst and fear. How can Paul say something like this since life is filled with difficulty and suffering? Paul tells the Philippians not to worry because he recognizes that God is sovereign. God is the ruler of the universe, and He works through the hardships of life for the good of His people (Romans 8:28).
Fourth, pray expectantly with a thankful heart. In verses 6-7, Paul encourages the Philippians to pray instead of worry. When your mind is filled with thoughts of fear and anxiety, pray for God’s help. Paul says that God will send His supernatural peace to guard your heart and mind. Paul emphasizes having a grateful heart in prayer. Focus on all of the ways that God has blessed and helped, and be thankful for His kindness. Through prayer and thanksgiving, God sends peace and joy.
Fifth, have a disciplined mind. In verse 8, Paul admonishes the Philippians to focus on that which is good, true, and honorable. In other words, we should dwell on the truths of God and the blessings of God. We should avoid filling our minds with what is dishonorable, false, and impure. Paul says dwell on what is right and good.
Sixth, have a submissive will. In verse 9, Paul tells the Philippians to obey God’s instruction. God’s truth isn’t meant to sit on a shelf. It is meant to be lived out. When we disobey God, we set ourselves up for fear, anxiety, and depression. Our sin has terrible consequences.
How do you live a life of peace and joy? Consider what Paul says in Philippians 4:4-9. By God’s grace, make changes where changes are needed. You’ll discover God’s presence and His peace. If you find yourself in a bottomless pit of anxiety and depression, get some help. Talk with a pastor, another mature believer, or a solid Christian counselor. May God’s peace and joy be yours in the midst of this broken world.