4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. (Philippians 4:4-8)
I’m not sure about you, but until recently, I always heard verses 6 and 8 from this passage as separate, largely unrelated commands. But of course here they are, back to back, separated only by verse 7. Could that be because part of the solution to our anxiety is found in what we’re choosing to think about?
Based on common sense and our collective experience working through the COVID-19 crisis, I believe the answer to that rhetorical question is a resounding “yes.” Paul is commanding us to take control of our thoughts so that the Lord can free us from our anxieties.
Our current moment provides a compelling testimony to this truth.
The news today is not lovely or admirable. Far from it. Today’s headlines are filled with fear and anxiety.
Of course we need to be informed about critical things going on in the communities we live in and the industries we work in. But that does not mean that we need to be reading, watching, or listening to the news for hours on end.
If you listen to my podcast you’ve likely heard me talk about the fact that I consume virtually zero news: No cnn.com, no Twitter, no newspaper, no MSNBC or Fox News. Nothing.
But for obvious reasons, I recently started checking news websites for information about self-distancing directives, school closures, etc. This information was highly relevant to my life and work.
But in the search for that important information, I stumbled into the quicksand that is most modern news services, scanning headlines from the ridiculous (“Hulk Hogan: ‘Maybe we don’t need a vaccine’”) to the fear-inducing (“U.S. Death Toll Nears 10,000”). Of course, this news (while marginally entertaining and informative) does not impact my life or work one bit.
After a couple of days of my return to regular news consumption, I was experiencing a level of anxiety I have never felt before. After a bit of reflection on the verses above, the culprit became clear to me. Rather than filling my mind with more of God’s Word and reminders of His promises, I was filling my mind with largely irrelevant, anxiety-inducing news.
You and I can be the ones our anxious co-workers and friends look to for hope during these trying times. But not if we ourselves are anxious and forgetful of the hope we have in Christ. May we be the ones filling our minds with things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, [and] praiseworthy” so that the hope of the gospel can shine to those we work and live with.