"Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." – Philippians 4:8,9 (NIV)
There are a lot of things that cause us to worry more now than we’ve worried about before.
If the economic downward condition has not stressed you out, then you have serious concerns and anxiety about the global conflicts that continue in the Middle East.
Many of us have been thinking about and gravely concerned about crimes that have been in the news this past week – a Ph.D. student opens fire on dozens of people in a theater in Colorado; a house guest kills the host couple in Detroit and dumps their bodies in a river; and several young people are shot while attending local parties.
And then there are just the ordinary day-to-day stresses of living. So it is no wonder that many of us have been thinking: Is there a way to stop the pain, the meaninglessness and the guilt?
Mental Health experts tell us that anxiety and depression affect more than 40 million adults in the United States, and 43 percent of adult Americans are medicated with mood altering prescription drugs. Even devout Christians are impacted and lose their joy and peace because of stress and worry.
What is worry? Our English word worry comes from an Anglo-Saxon word that means “to strangle.” And worry certainly does strangle people physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Worry comes when the thoughts in our mind and feelings in our heart pull in different directions and tear us apart. The mind thinks about problems, people, perplexities, and these feelings weigh down the heart, creating a vicious circle that wrecks our emotional state. Our minds tell us we should not fret, but we often cannot control the anxiety in our hearts. Thus the expressions, “Worry is like a rocking chair; it keeps you busy, but it doesn’t get you anywhere!” “Worry is the interest paid on trouble before it falls due.”
We have to break this circle of worry before we can enjoy peace. So what can we do to reduce the stress, anxiety and worry of life?
Well, right praying reduces stress! Not just praying, but right praying. The Bible nowhere says that any kind of praying will bring peace to our hearts; but right praying will.
What is right praying? It’s prayer that begins with adoration, enjoying the presence of God and honoring Him in worship. We bow before Him in worship and let Him search our hearts and minds. Next comes supplication, which means the earnest, sincere desire of the heart. True prayer comes from the heart, not the lips. Then there is appreciation or thanksgiving. It takes faith to thank Him for uncomfortable circumstances or for requests not yet granted.
Right thinking reduces stress. Thoughts are powerful: “As people think, so they are.” Wrong thoughts will lead to unrest and discouragement, but spiritual thinking will lead to peace. Paul tells us in this verse what to think about. Meditation that is on the true, the noble and what is right and pure will always bring peace.
Right living reduces stress. If there is something in one’s life that they cannot pray about, then they will never have peace. Right living always brings peace. It is not enough to use the Bible as a basis for praying and claiming its promises. It must also be used as a basis for our living.
To further reduce your stress, go encourage a child – that’s pure. Look at the wonderful colors of God’s creation – that’s lovely. Show unusual kindness to a stranger – that’s admirable. Share your testimony with someone who needs to be edified – that’s praiseworthy!
And the God of Peace will be with you. Amen!
The Rev. Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com