My teenage son and I were looking forward to the weekend. It was a big four-day-long swimming competition held at the University of Missouri. He had been training for months and was hoping to do well. We made the six-hour journey and I dropped him off at the aquatic center to get in an early practice. I checked into the hotel, then minutes after plopping on the bed, news reports started pouring in: The NCAA tournament will be played in empty arenas. NBA games are postponed. Colleges are canceling classes. Now the NCAA tournament is completely off. College sports are pretty much over for the spring. Then I get a text from my son, “Competition cancelled.” What in the world is going on?
I’m not prone to panic, but all of this crazy fast change can definitely stir up some anxiety. What might happen next? Will they shut down the roads? Will we be stuck in a hotel hours from the rest of our family during coronavirus? What about the coming weeks? How long will this last? What else will be canceled? Our friend’s son is graduating High School this year. But now they don’t even know if there will even be a graduation. How far will this go?
How can a Christian find a moment of peace in the midst of the unknown? For me, one of the first things that came to mind was Scripture. A flood of verses came rushing over my mind and my heart. Verses like, “Fear not for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10), and “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5). But the one that kept ringing in my ears most often has been Philippians 4:6-7. Why? Because I’ve heard the Seeds Scripture memory song hundreds, if not thousands, of times: it’s a crowd favorite at our house and it goes like this…
“Do not be anxious, about anything, but in everything, 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.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV84).
We hear all the time from families who have found this song meaningful. It’s no coincidence that the video and song for Philippians 4:6-7 are some of the all-time most popular Seeds has. It is also an important verse to dwell on in this season. There are a few key words in these verses that can guide us and keep us centered in these unstable times.
The first is “thanksgiving.” I don’t mean the holiday, but the act, the mindset. Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools in your anxiety-fighting belt. In the midst of chaos, fear lurks around every corner; it plays off the unknown, but gratitude focuses on the known. Fear says, “Buy all the cereal in the city or we’ll starve!” Gratitude says, “Give thanks for the abundance of food we already have. Fear says, “We’re all going to get sick and die!” Gratitude says, “I’m thankful to be alive and healthy right now.” Fear says, “I’m going to be stuck in this house with my crazy family for at least two weeks!” Gratitude says…. “Yep, that’s right.” No, wait… gratitude says, “Thank you God that I have a family and I’m not all alone like so many.” If you’re overwhelmed by anxiety, start by making a list of things you can be grateful for in this moment, even the seemingly small things we all take for granted, till we have to go without them, things like carpet and windows and salt and indoor plumbing and refrigerators and electricity. Giving thanks doesn’t minimize our need to buy food and make smart decisions to avoid getting sick, but it helps us gain perspective.
Philippians reminds us that the main antidote to anxiety is not ignoring your anxieties; Don’t turn your fears into a mental whack-a-mole game to keep pushing them down and out of your conscious. Instead, identify those worries, and bring them to God in prayer. God is not surprised by a viral pandemic. He’s seen it before. He knows how to guide and comfort in the midst of these challenges. And He knows that some of your fears are probably legitimate. We really should be concerned about the spread of deadly viruses and act with wisdom to help stop them from spreading. Yet concern and wisdom should not overwhelm us to the point of being dominated by those fears. And here’s the exciting part—the result of prayer is promised in this verse—and it’s exactly what we’re all longing for: peace.
Walking in gratitude and bringing your anxieties to God in prayer leads to peace. God is a God of peace, and He will bring peace to our hearts and minds, in fact, this peace will “guard” our hearts and minds. That word “guard” is a powerful word. It’s not just that we learn to avoid anxieties, the act of intentionally being grateful and bringing our anxieties to God through prayer creates an active protection to guard us from anxiety. Prayer and gratitude stand like well-armed sentinels at the gates of our mind and actively keep out the anxieties.
We live in a world that is constantly trying to pull us off balance by stirring up fears and anxieties. When you feel these fears welling up, meditate on Philippians 4:6-7, and get active with prayer and thanksgiving. Dwelling on Scripture will re-center our hearts and minds and cover us in peace.
How To Fight the Anxiety Virus as a Family Tonight
Every day we hear of new restrictions and guidelines to help slow the spread of the virus. We hear reports of more confirmed cases and fallout around the world. This can be overwhelming, so tonight, instead of filling our mind with fear-filled news, go on guard and gather the family to watch or listen to the song and then discuss it. Here are a few questions to jump-start your conversation.
- First, ask if anyone is feeling anxious or fearful. Try to get them to share specifics and make sure not to minimize their fears. Just ask and listen. Take the lead by sharing your fears to help others feel like it’s ok to share.
- Next move toward thanksgiving. Ask, “Even in the midst of these fears, what can we be thankful for right now?” Try to encourage everyone to mention something, no matter how small it may seem.
- Next ask, “How can we experience God’s peace in this season?”
- Finally, spend some time praying for the fears and anxieties that were mentioned. Here’s a sample prayer:
“God, we love you and we trust you. We know you are in control. We know that we also have real challenges in life that sometimes cause fear and anxiety, things like (mention the requests your family presented). We thank you for the health you’ve granted us, and for so many comforts in life. We also thank you for our family. We ask you would protect each person here. We also ask you to give wisdom to doctors around the world that are caring for the sick. Finally, we ask for wisdom for how we live and make decisions today in the midst of whatever challenges come our way. Help us to do all we can to protect ourselves and at the same time not be overrun by fears or anxieties. Help us to trust your sovereignty completely.”