God never asks us to do something that He will not equip us to do. That is exciting news in light of Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything." What a tall order to fill! As a parent, the opportunities for worry and anxiety are endless. When we recognize that the root of worry is fear, we are even more aware of the destructive path to which it leads.
A few days ago, I took my children to a birthday party at a friend's house. It was an unseasonably warm day in December, even for Texas. With temperatures in the mid seventies, some of the older boys suggested going outside. One parent reminded his two sons of their tendency toward asthma attacks. Another mother reminded her son that he had been sick just a few days before, even though he felt well enough to attend the party. Neither parent allowed his or her child to play outdoors. Reluctantly, the boys settled down on the floor to play video games.
If we live a life influenced by fear and anxiety, then we pass on that legacy to our children. My friend, Sue, shared with me that her eight-year-old daughter was constantly fearful. As her daughter prepared for school in the morning, she talked of being afraid and of not doing well in school, even though she had excellent grades. She was fearful at night and needed constant reassurance to fall asleep. Her daily perspective had become more and more inhibited and negative.
Listening to Sue explain her daughter's anxiety, I knew that those fearful tendencies were a reflection of Sue's own fearful nature. Sue feared illness, death, financial problems, theft, accidents and failure to perform at work. It was common for her conversation to be peppered with worry and anxiety. Thankfully, Sue was ready for change. She began searching God's Word and using it to combat her own fears. She soon started sharing the same Scripture passages with her daughter. The positive results are evident in both of their lives today.
How often do we exercise fear and worry and let them guide the course of our lives?
If we look again in chapter four of Philippians, we see God's solution for anxiety and fear: "...but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." First, we are encouraged to pray about the things that cause worry and fear to spring up. In so doing, we are communicating our dependence upon God. We are sharing our hearts with Him and inviting Him to work on our behalf.
Bringing our worries to the Lord is only part of the solution for worry and anxiety: "...with thanksgiving present your requests to God." If you've ever been fretful and fearful, you can attest to the fact that being thankful is the last thing on your mind. We can be so consumed with the circumstances that we find it difficult to redirect our focus, yet God's ways are always best no matter how they may go against our natural tendencies.
In seeking to eliminate fear and worry in my life, I made a list of things for which I routinely offer a prayer of thanksgiving. When I receive a bad report or encounter a crisis, I refer to my list of blessings. Verbalizing the things for which I am thankful is like having the proper tool at my fingertips when needed, instead of being empty-handed. By choosing to be proactive, I am ready to react to life's hurdles God's way. In so doing, I can become a doer of His Word and not merely a hearer. "But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25).
Along with cultivating a thankful heart in the midst of worrisome circumstances, I am learning to be thankful in advance for the answer to the problem. From a human perspective, thanking someone for something you have yet to receive is foolishness. But from God's perspective, it is called faith. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).
I am just beginning to learn the strength and confidence that is added to my life each time I pray faith-filled prayers. They might sound something like this: "Father, you know we've been having trouble with the van lately. Though it is a ten-year-old vehicle, thank you for the many trouble-free years we've had driving the van. Will you please provide us with a new van? I am so thankful that your Word says every good and perfect gift comes from you. I thank you right now for providing a new vehicle for us, in Jesus' name. Amen." Such prayers eliminate worry and fear and allow my confidence in God to grow.
It is impossible to live in this world without problems and troublesome circumstances.
But as believers who know the faithfulness of God, we can face such situations without worry and fear. Instead, we can have God's Word, which is the sword of the Spirit, in our mouths. When we choose to operate in faith, based on what God's Word says, instead of fear, we will be living on a level far above the world's standard. The things we see and hear won't shake us because our foundation is in Christ Jesus, the Living Word.