Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
You know that thing about the pink elephant? The gist of it is that if tell you, “Don’t think about a pink elephant,” then of course, all you can think about is a pink elephant. In psychology, this is known as ironic processing. The everyday ramification is that trying really hard not to think about something generally has the opposite outcome.
If you’ve ever tried not to worry about something, you’ve experienced this. Not worrying is not the kind of thing you accomplish by an outright attempt to accomplish it. In Philippians 4, God gives us insight into solving the worry problem. According to this passage, the opposite of worrying isn’t not worrying. The opposite of worrying is praying.
Simply put, the right thing to do with worry is talk about it. Don’t hold it in your head and allow it overwhelm your heart. Open your mouth and express your concerns to the One who can do something about them. Have a conversation with the Friend who sticks closer than a brother. God has promised that if you will bring Him your worries, He will exchange them for His peace.
There’s one important element your prayers must include if you want God’s peace to swiftly overwhelm your fears. Paul said,“Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
This week, Americans will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, but thanksgiving is more than a day or a nice thing to do. Thanksgiving holds great power in the place of prayer.
In Joshua 3-4, Scripture records the story of the crossing of the Jordan. As the people of Israel prepared to enter the land God had promised them, they came upon a mighty river. The Lord instructed Joshua to send the priests ahead of the people, carrying the Ark of the Covenant. When their feet touched the water, the flow of the water ceased and the people crossed on dry ground. After all the people had reached the other side, God instructed Joshua:
“Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone. …We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:2-7 NLT)
When we present requests to God by first thanking Him for what He has already done in our lives, we’re like the Israelites who explained the Jordan River memorial to their children. Perhaps there was fear of attack on an Israelite city or concern about some kind of shortage. By recounting what God had done—backing up an entire river so His people could cross on dry ground!—the Israelites were reminded that they served a powerful God who loved them and would actively intercede on their behalf.
You can cut worry off at the knees by reminding yourself of the goodness and power of God in your own life. If you’ll stop worrying and start praying, and if you’ll couple your petitions with praises, then “you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
This Thanksgiving, we encourage you to start setting up memorials of the things God has done on your behalf. Keep a journal or make a list on your phone, and remember these things next time your circumstances start to seem bigger than the God you serve. You were made to live in peace, and thanksgiving will lead you to it.
To all our friends in the States, happy Thanksgiving!