Thanksgiving and Peace

Read Phil. 4:4-9

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God."

Every day it seems the news reports more trouble in our society. Whether it be the future of our nation, the leadership of our government, the economy, the environment, the rule of law, or the ethnic issues, people of both sides of the political scene are pessimistic and worried about the direction of our country. The one area where the democrats and republicans share the same opinion (62% and 68%, respectively) is that the polarization in our country will only worsen in the future. But these are not just national issues, but issues that affect us personally as we fear the future for our children and grandchildren. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., with approximately 1 out of 5 individuals struggling with fear and anxiety.

Paul himself was not immune to the demons on inward fears. In 2 Corinthians 7:5, he describes these inward struggles when he writes, "For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within" (emphasis added). When he first came to minister to the people in Corinth, he mentions that he came in "weakness and in fear and much trembling" (1 Corinthians 2:3). So intense was his anxiety and fear as he arrived in Corinth that God Himself appeared to Paul to encourage him "not to be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you" (Acts 18:9-10).

In his struggle with anxiety, Paul learned an important principle about overcoming his fears. He then passes this life lesson on to the believers in Philippi when he encourages them not to give way to anxiety. Instead, they are to bring their requests before God and seek His aid. Peter would likewise echo these words when he writes in 1 Petr 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." While we rightfully focus upon prayer as the key to overcoming anxiety, we often miss the essential element of our prayer. We are not only to pray for God's help in dealing with the circumstances and issues causing us anxiety; we are to do so with thanksgiving. A crucial ingredient in prayer is being thankful. But this brings us to a conundrum. We can be grateful for God's activity when he has delivered us, but how can we be thankful when we are still facing the circumstances that cause us anxiety? The answer lies in the character of God. When we express our gratitude to God for who He is, His providence, His love, His care, and His concern for us, it reorients our focus. The more we express our thankfulness for the attributes of God, the bigger our God becomes and the smaller our fears turn out to be.

Instead of focusing upon your fears and asking God to deliver you, this week focus on thanking God for who He is and praising Him for His character and attributes. As a result, you may find that the fears diminish in comparison to the wonder of our God.

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