The 1988 song by Bobby McFerrin won three Grammys. It was entitled, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and it swept our country because we’re all struggling to overcome anxiety and experience true joy in life.

Over the last two years, anxiety has become an even greater problem in our nation.  We all know the effects of anxiety physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our culture says there are three ways to handle anxiety: to pretend it doesn’t exist, to self-medicate, or to run away. But what does the Bible say?

In Philippians 4:4-9, Paul writes to the Church at Philippi about some challenging circumstances they were facing and tells them not to allow their situation to cause them to be continually distracted from God’s best for them—which is joy in the Lord.

He commands them in verse 4 to rejoice in the Lord always. We can do this with the steadfast spirit that the Lord can give us, and because we know the Lord is near (verse 5).  He is near us now in our challenging circumstances, and He is coming again soon to put an end to our difficult days.

In verses 6-9, Paul tells us how to stop being anxious, refusing to allow it to immobilize us and burden us so much that it squeezes the joy out of us. Instead of worrying about how we can handle life, we need to trust that God is in control and that He will take care of us. Through our faith in Him, God enables us to make three important changes…

First, change the way you pray. Instead of prayer just being wishful thinking, or limited to what you do before you eat, Paul says our prayer should focus us continually on who God is.  We should ask since He is a loving Heavenly Father who cares about our needs. We should make our requests known to Him not because He lacks knowledge about them, but because we believe that He can and will supply what we need according to His gracious will and wisdom. We should express thanksgiving to God because He is sovereign and sufficient to deal with our situation.

When we pray like this, Paul says in verse 7 that the peace of God surpasses all comprehension, and it will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Prayer doesn’t prevent cares in our life, but God acts in response to our prayers to keep our hearts from being torn apart by anxiety.

Second, in verse 8 Paul tells us to change how we think.  “Dwell” is a command to continually reflect on God’s good subject matter—instead of being mentally locked into all the bad that we see in our world. Spiritual eyes that are tuned to see God at work in your challenging circumstances will see Him at work!  When we see Him at work, God will give us perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).

Third, Paul urges you to change how you act in verse 9. He commands us to practice what we’ve learned from him when he was imprisoned in Rome (Philippians 1:12-14). The Christian faith should lead us to action (James 1:22); to fail to act on what is right is sin (James 4:17).  Our worries should never become an excuse for inactivity.  When we act on the truth that God has revealed to us we will have His peace instead of anxiety (verse 9).

We pray that you’ll choose joy by practicing these three commands. If you’re overwhelmed with anxiety now, we encourage you to talk with your Pastor, or to get his referral to see a professional Christian counselor. Relying on God’s truth together in these challenging days, we can experience God’s best!