The Lord is Near. Four little words--that’s all it took to change the meaning in my mind and heart, forever.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) I read this verse and the ones that followed it hundreds of times. Friends reminded me of these words when I was fretful. And, in turn, I passed the exhortation on to many as they struggled with anxious thoughts.
Be anxious for nothing, be anxious for nothing. I rehearsed these four simple words, tried to obey them and whispered them in prayer for others as well as myself.
I learned the verses were a “prescription for anxiety.” Properly applied and taken with grace, they would change my life forever. But the words felt heavy. I was responsible for my anxiety! I did not trust enough. Or I trusted myself instead of God. I was not thankful enough, prayerful enough, diligent enough. The focus was pointed inward, and my failure to truly apply these verses with each new circumstance resulted in a furrowed brow, slumped shoulders or a rapidly beating heart. Pray. Be thankful. Make your request in this light. Do not be anxious.
Yet I was still anxious. I continued to fail in finding and maintaining a sense of peace.
Recently, I read the verses again written in the larger context of the whole fourth chapter of Philippians. Suddenly the words preceding these oft-quoted lines leapt off the page as if they were in forty-eight-point font:
THE LORD IS NEAR.
The Lord is near—the Lord is at hand! Therefore, do not be anxious. All along, the focus had been on me and my obedience (or lack of it) while it was meant to be on the Lord and his nearness.
How did I miss this for so long?
I never heard a sermon preached on this truth, and no one directed my attention to the fact that the strong affirmation of the Lord's presence preceded the exhortation to not be anxious. But this is where it starts—realizing God’s nearness. Because he is close at hand, I can relax and put away my anxious thoughts. I can bring my requests to him, resting in and being thankful for his presence. I can “make them known” to him because we talk together, he and I, like two companions on the same journey.
The exhortation and application is life-changing when taken in this context. I can be at peace. I can be free from anxiety because the nearness of God is my good.
How grateful I am for four little overlooked words! I continue to rejoice over God’s presence in my life. Today and tomorrow. THE LORD IS NEAR. (Be anxious for nothing.)
Four little words . . . all I needed to hear.