According to Amazon, the most highlighted verse in their e-versions of the Bible is Philippians 4:6 – the Bible’s great anti-anxiety verse. Do you know it? It says: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God.
Actually, no, that’s not what it says. I left out two words. Let’s try it again: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
The verse sounds reasonable either way, but the addition of “with thanksgiving,” adds a dimension that melts away worry like winter’s ice on a sunny day. No matter our crisis or concern, there are always notable items for which we can be thankful, and finding them is critical to worrying less and living more.
In any given situation, whether trivial or horrendous, there are always observable items we can discover and acknowledge with thanksgiving. If we don’t find those items, focus on them, and thank God for them, we cannot overcome anxiety. Gratitude is to worry what antibiotics are to an infection. The old practice of “counting our blessings” is an effective modern treatment for what’s ailing the mind. Giving thanks is essential to mental health.
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In simplest terms, that means you can instantly lessen the level of your anxiety by finding something for which to immediately thank God. If something triggers an anxious episode, we have to pull ourselves together and say, “As bad as this seems, it’s not as bad as it could be. In fact, here are some things I can thank God for in the middle of this mess.”
This is classic Christianity, but something interesting has happened in recent times in the secular world. An entire science of gratitude has arisen, as legions of experts are discovering the psychological power of gratitude. Most of these modern scholars aren’t coming at it from a distinctively Christian point of view, but they’re nonetheless discovering how a biblical attitude – thanksgiving – has a profound effect on the human spirit.
Dr. Robert Emmons, an influential scholar in this area, wrote: “Our groundbreaking research has shown that grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness and optimism, and that the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.”
The ability to say, “Thank You, Lord,” is among the most wonderful things about being a follower of Jesus Christ. What a tragedy if we fail to do so.
For several years I’ve followed a habit I learned from the writings of hymnist Frances Havergal. I keep a thanksgiving list alongside my prayer list. It’s in a small loose-leaf journal, and every morning before I present my requests to God, I think of one or two or three items from the past 24 hours for which to thank Him. I jot them down and offer them to the Lord in praise.
I hope you’ll develop your own version of this habit, for it will help you bury worry before worry buries you. The Bible says: 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 transcends all understanding, shall guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.
About the Author:
Robert J. Morgan is the teaching pastor of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has served for 35 years. He is a best-selling and Gold-Medallion winning writer with more than 35 books in print and more than 4 million copies in circulation in multiple languages. He is a writer for Dr. David Jeremiah and Turning Points Magazine, and has many articles published in other leading Christian periodicals. He is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Rob has appeared on numerous national television and radio shows.