A beloved relative is dying before your eyes; the syncopation of an EKG monitor punctuates each heartbeat. Bleep . . . Bleep . . . Bleep . . . . It’s not the sound of hospital equipment, however, that is dragging your soul into despair; it’s the conflicted thoughts and emotions swirling within. Memories, tender and most lovely, give way to the cold sterile confines of a deathbed. You seek to apply your faith in God’s providence, but the torrent of emotions rains down mercilessly upon you, causing you to feel hopeless.
Such an experience can be replicated in a thousand different scenarios. We’ve all been there at some point. Some of us live there. You understand quite well the concept of Philippians 4: think on things that are praiseworthy and true, with prayer and supplication, shunning worry in favor of thanksgiving, and God’s inscrutable peace will guard you heart. Indeed, this is a precious, altogether true promise. But in some moments of crisis you’re so exceedingly distracted that you feel unable to control your thoughts and thus incapable of finding peace. What then?
The Lord of glory unifies creation under the reign of Christ in the Holy Spirit’s bond of peace; the Devil, on the other hand, comes to steal, kill and destroy. He divides and conquers. It is a strategy that has been around from the inception of sin. The Son of Man sows good seed into his field, producing a harvest of life that redounds to God’s glory; the Devil sows weeds that threaten to choke it out. Such is the pattern. The Father extends his hand of redemption to subdue and organize the chaotic creation under his care; sin manufactures more and more chaos.
When the chaos of sin engages one’s soul, anxiety naturally follows. The word translated anxiety in Philippians 4:6 comes from the Greek word merimnao. It gathers meaning from the words merizo “to divide” and nous “mind.” This divided mind is the unhappy condition of the man whom the Apostle James describes as “double-minded, unstable in all his ways” (1:8). Such instability routinely focuses on the object of anxiety to the exclusion of God. In such moments, the sick feeling in our stomach and shortness of breath in our chest confirms that flaming darts have pierced our spiritual armor. We’ve been hit, and we are in trouble.