‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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. Phil 4:6-7
This is the worst thing you could say to someone with chronic anxiety! If you have occasional worries, this verse is a great reminder that God has things totally under control. But for an anxious person, and I mean those, for whom fighting anxiety has become a way of life, this verse is often the first to come out of the arsenal of those well meaning Christians around them. But it’s not really what they need. Can I say that anxious people already know that God doesn’t want them to worry and that quoting this verse is not new to them. It’s probably the 50th time they have heard it and that’s frustrating because if they knew how to “just stop worrying”, they would have done it the first time. Reading that verse and expecting that by doing that they can somehow just stop worrying is a bit like asking the river not to flow. It’s unrealistic at best.
It takes work to dam the flow of worry, and often it takes help and support from others to do so, as it is more than likely too big of a task for a person struggling with it to do on their own. It’s a lifelong journey, not a momentary decision.
It’s a bit trite when people toss this at people who suffer with anxiety, because they either expect that the verse should somehow magically clear everything up or else it is used to condemn people that “refuse” to stop worrying after having read it.
I don’t think this verse is meant to be taken as a command, or in isolation from the rest of God’s Word. I think it’s a reminder of God’s best for us, and a reminder that He is with us in the fight not to worry. The rest of the Bible is filled with examples of His faithful presence in the scary times in people’s lives. It’s filled with reminders of His love. It’s filled with the tools we need to fight anxiety and worry. So why would He fill His Word with encouragement and love and then take one verse out, to threaten people with?
Our God is merciful by His very nature. He also created us and knows how we work. He knows that we will struggle and worry and He knows this wont change with a simple command, “not to worry”. He isn’t going to dictate to us to do will ourselves to do something that may not truly be under our full control.
So next time someone tells you, “God says you shouldn’t worry and you are sinning if you do”, know this: your God is bigger than that. He doesn’t threaten people into perfection. He never expected them to be perfect. All He wants and expects is that you spend your life, moving closer to Him. He will take care of the rest. Just hold onto Him when you worry, and He will help you through that fire, just as He has always promised. Know that this verse is a reminder that He is with you in your struggle, not a command that you shouldn’t struggle.