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Winning the War with Anxiety

by Skip Heitzig |
I came across an interesting diet plan called the Stress Diet. For breakfast: half a grapefruit, one piece of whole wheat toast, and eight ounces of skim milk. For lunch: a four-ounce lean boiled chicken breast, one cup of steamed zucchini, one Oreo cookie, and herb tea. For a midafternoon snack: the rest of the package of Oreo cookies. For dinner: two loaves of garlic bread, a large mushroom and pepperoni pizza, a large pitcher of root beer, three Milky Ways, and an entire frozen cheesecake eaten directly from the freezer.

In life, there are bumps in the road, but so often we let the stress of those situations get to us, and we react wrongly. We need to learn how to battle anxiety the right way. Let's look at the words of Paul the apostle in Philippians 4:6-7: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

I have a hunch that a lot of you live in verse 6--worry, anxiety, fears--and haven't yet graduated to verse 7--peace, security, tranquility. But if you can learn what is sandwiched in between those two things and let it become habit, you will have a new lease on life.

Let's take apart this passage. First is the problem: anxiety. "Be anxious for nothing," verse 6 says. The Greek word for anxious is merimnaó, which literally means to divide the mind. Worry is like a two-headed monster that pulls you in two different directions. As I see it, there is no greater tyrant in our culture today.

But that same verse also gives us the prescription to this problem. In the Greek, it's emphatic: "Don't be anxious for even one single thing." Jesus said the same thing, didn't He? "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on" (Matthew 6:25).

Now, how is this possible? Through what's called replacement: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (v. 6). In other words, Paul was saying, "Replace your anxiety. Redirect all of your energy, all of your concerns into praying." That's the solution. Why worry when you can pray?

Notice this verse mentions four specific types of prayer: prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and requests. Simply put, prayer means adoration, worship, or praise; supplication means strong crying, begging, or emotional outpouring; thanksgiving is when you pause, think of all that God has done so far, and thank Him for it (especially fitting this week); and requests is simply saying, "Lord, here are my requests, but You're still God."

And what will happen when you do these things? "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (v. 7). As you use all of the energy you would normally spend worrying with prayer, the by-product will be the peace of God--that tranquil, calm confidence that God is working and in charge.

In other words, Stress Diet no more! As Isaiah 26:3 says, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You."

In His strong love,

Skip Heitzig

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