by Liz Curtis Higgs
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
“Fear not”? Right. Got that. Now it’s time for something harder: “Fret not.”
Sister, I’m a world-class worrier. I worry about not finishing a project on time. Then I worry no one will like it. If they do like it, I worry they won’t like the next one.
Been there? There now? Then this verse is definitely for you. Even if you’ve heard it a hundred times, let’s see if we can find, tucked between the lines, a fresh truth that will unlock the secret of how to stop fretting.
Do not be anxious . . . Philippians 4:6
It reads like a command. “Do not fret” (AMPC). “Never worry” (ISV). Already I’m in trouble because (big surprise) I don’t like someone telling me what to do. The best bosses I ever had were the ones who told me what they wanted yet made me think it was my idea.
God follows an entirely different management model. When He asks us to do something, He clearly states that it’s entirely His idea, and then He gives us sufficient strength to carry out His plan. That’s why we don’t need to fret.
. . . about anything, . . . Philippians 4:6
God doesn’t want one thing left on our stuff-to-worry-about list. “Nothing must make you anxious” (KNOX), He says. And that Greek word médeis means “not even one.”
Nope. Not even that.
. . . but . . . Philippians 4:6
“But” sounds pretty negative, yet it’s simply pointing us to the alternative to worrying, fretting, and being anxious. “Instead” (NET), “rather” (CEB), “on the contrary” (CJB), here’s what happens when we go with God’s plan even in the midst of life’s challenges.
. . . in every situation, . . . Philippians 4:6
Every is one of those words you can’t get around. Not some, not most. “Every circumstance” (AMP), the Lord assures us. “Every need” (KNOX). However long our tally of concerns extends, God is already there.
A prodigal child? An alcoholic spouse? An empty bank account? A troubling lab report? A layoff at work? An ailing parent? Yes, all those situations. Hard, hard, hard but not too hard for God.
Also, nothing is too simple for God’s notice. He understands the small things that are big to us. He knows and cares and wants to hear about them.
. . . by prayer . . . Philippians 4:6
In the Greek, proseuché means interactive prayer. Not just talking, but also listening and waiting for the Lord’s response. No need to worry about saying just the right words in just the right way, because “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us.” (Rom. 8:26)
In my childhood when my brothers and sisters gathered around the dinner table, I was the one who prayed before the meal. Not because I knew the Lord, but because I was the youngest and knew a simple prayer that began “God is great, God is good.” Even though I didn’t fully understand His goodness, I spoke the truth of it, scattering seeds across the soil of my heart. When we pray, God hears, and we hear the truth as well.
. . . and petition, . . . Philippians 4:6
This sounds like a legal term: “Here, sign a petition.” What it really means is seeking, asking, entreating, “beseeching” (KNOX). To put it simply, “ask and pray” (NIrV). Rather than fretting and fussing, “shape your worries into prayers” (MSG).
Now, here’s the hidden key that sets us free.
. . . with thanksgiving, . . . Philippians 4:6
Even while we’re asking and praying, we’re already thanking God for listening and answering. We’re also thanking Him for “all he has done” (NLT) in the past, all He is doing right now, and all He is going to do in the future.
Gratitude takes faith, my sister. Faith is the opposite of fretfulness. It enables us to pray “with a thankful heart” (GNT). A trusting heart. A believing heart.
If you’re looking for something meaningful to write in your journal today, this sums up our lesson from the Lord: “Do not worry about anything. Talk to God about everything. Thank him for what you have. Ask him for what you need” (WE).
. . . present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
It’s also translated “ask” (NCV) and “tell” (NIrV), but the verb “present” helps us imagine handing the Lord our needs like gifts, neatly boxed and wrapped in ribbons. You and I know how it works with gifts. Once they’re placed in someone else’s hands, we can’t take them back.
No matter how ugly those worries look to you, God will gladly take care of them. “He longs to hear your requests” (VOICE), so don’t hesitate to tell Him everything. “Make your wants known to God” (AMPC). Yes, “every detail of your needs” (Phillips). Your concerns are not a burden to Him. They are not a nuisance. They are beautiful gifts of faith and trust and gratitude. My needs are all Yours, Lord. Thank You for taking them.
Some translations end this verse with a semicolon or a comma, meaning there’s more good news to come in the next verse. I’m including those encouraging words here so we can celebrate the happy ending: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)
Fret not, my friend.
Heavenly Father, You’ve shown me what I need to do. Now help me do it. Gently prod me when I start to worry. Prompt me to pray. Urge me to listen. Remind me to be grateful. Always, ever grateful.
Tip #15 for Memorizing Scripture:
Once you’ve written the verse, underline or highlight the key words.
Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Excerpted from 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart. Copyright © 2016 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
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