Anxiety is the most commonplace disease of our day. It is not just an uncomfortable state of mind; it has become a major health crisis. While nearly 30% of diagnosed, anxiety-related illnesses have a medical or physiological root, much of our anxiety, fear and worry is something that we have been conditioned to experience.
If we have learned anxiety… we can unlearn it! Jesus said in Luke 12:22-31, “Don’t worry.” “Don’t be afraid.” “Don’t be anxious.” If the Word of God tells us we can stop anxiety from ruling and ruining our lives, then we can.
Paul gives us a four-step progression in Philippians 4:4-9 that I have simplified into four “R’s” to help us remember:
- Rejoice in the Lord
- Release our anxious thoughts
- Let our Requests be made known to God
- Renew our thinking.
None of these are complex in themselves, and each of them is based on faith in God to do them. The first and perhaps most important: REJOICE IN THE LORD.
To “rejoice in the Lord” means to find in God our HIGHEST joy, our GREATEST happiness, and our most FULFILLING dimension of life. It is not saying that other things should not be enjoyed. It is saying that they must be enjoyed UNDER our joy in the Lord, and not ABOVE it!
There is nothing wrong with finding joy in our mate, in our children, in our jobs, in our homes or possessions or in our health. Nothing at all wrong with these. It is wrong to enjoy these people or things at a higher capacity than we enjoy the Lord! It is then they become an idol, and not simply a means to point us back to our Creator.
God “richly gives us all things to enjoy,” we read in 1 Timothy 6:17. But if you gave your child or your spouse a gift for Christmas and they find more joy in that gift than they find in you, it would break your heart. If that gift helps them to love you more, then it accomplished the intended purpose!
When we love the things that the “giver of every good and perfect gift” brings to us more than the One who brought them, we have violated His purpose and created an idol.
Idols are any thing or any person that moves into the place of your affection, attention, and devotion where only God should be. Therefore, when we rejoice IN THE LORD, we are not saying we do not enjoy the good things God gives… we are saying that these things help us love God more… and most of all!
Rejoicing in the Lord takes a key ingredient of anxiety off the table… that being our fear that the thing or circumstances or people we most love could be lost to us. Anxiety comes as a result of that fear or loss of the most significant thing or person to us.
However, if we are “rejoicing in the Lord,” there is never a danger we will lose Him, and therefore fear and anxiety have no ground to build on.
Do you love God first? Do you love Him most? Or is there any person, any circumstance, any possession that is more the focus of your affection than God? If so, then you have a root of anxiety in your life that can torment and afflict you.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart… all your mind… all your soul… and all your strength.” And rejoice FIRST and MOST in the Lord!
FOR YOUR REFLECTION
- Do an inventory of everything in your world that brings your pleasure. Are there any that rival your joy in the Lord?
- Ask God to show you any place in your life where you have begun to build an idol. It may be your job or profession, your bank account, your home or your family. Give this idol over to God and ask Him to put it in proper perspective in your life.
- To “rejoice in the Lord” is a command that is not concerned with circumstances. Are you rejoicing… even when you are not necessarily happy with how your life is going? “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” Focus on the joy that comes from knowing God’s provision, God’s protection, God’s pardon, God’s peace. Joy will come when we put our eyes on what is most important.