Thanksgiving in Anxiety

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Philippians is easily the happiest of Paul’s epistles. The church in Philippi had a lot of great things going for them: they were faithful to God, growing in love for one another, and eager to support the work of the ministry. Aside from a brief chiding of two women who weren’t getting along, Paul had only good things to say about them. He rejoiced in them, expressing his gratefulness for them numerous times.

In fact, thanksgiving is a big part of the epistle. Paul was in prison when he wrote it, but his attitude throughout the letter doesn’t indicate that. He was cheerful, speaking only of the incredible works God had accomplished through his imprisonment. He was content, as he wrote near the end, because he had learned that he could do all things when he was strengthened by Christ (4:13). Nothing could dampen his spirits, because he was trusting in Someone far above the world.

If anyone had a right to be anxious, it was Paul. His mission trips brought him to the edge of death innumerable times. But still, he continued to rejoice in God. He urged the Philippians to do the same, encouraging them to not be anxious but to instead bring their requests before God, all while giving thanks. Being grateful is an easy thing to overlook, but in reality, it’s the key to Paul’s instruction. When we remember to thank God for what He is already doing, our focus is removed from our own troubles. We instead look at how God has worked in our lives in the past and consider what He is doing even now. In light of that, there is no more room for anxiety. Cultivating a habit of thanksgiving prevents us from dwelling on our anxieties, constantly reminding us that God is good and that we can indeed do all things through Him who strengthens us.

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