One of the greatest antidotes to anxiety is the practice of being fully emersed in the present moment, which helps lead to the experience of peace and contentment. This practice is a skill into which we grow. In Philippians chapter 4 verses 6-9, the Apostle Paul tells us about both anxiety and peace.
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
In verse 6, Paul tells us that the first step to managing our anxiety is to earnestly take it before God in prayer with a spirit of thankfulness. Through doing this, we both acknowledge God’s goodness in our lives by practicing gratitude, and we take on the heart-posture of surrendering and letting go. In turn, we take on a posture of openness to receive from the Lord, and Paul tells us that what we receive is the peace of God.
Now, the peace of God is not like any other sort of peace we can experience; it is a peace which does not make earthly sense – it surpasses all understanding (or logic or reason). It is a peace which is strong enough to guard both our hearts (our emotions and feelings of uncertainty, nervousness, and fear) and our minds (our racing, ruminating, assuming, what-if-scenario-thinking thoughts) in Christ Jesus (the Prince of Peace).
In verse 8, Paul tells us how we ought to focus our thoughts, which is especially helpful when we are experiencing anxiousness, because often the battle against anxiety is one which takes place in the mind.
Then, in verse 9, Paul tells us two things. First, he tells us that battling anxiety is a process which is learned, and it is one which we must practice. Second, he reminds us of the source from whom we receive our strength and peace and of the promise and assurance that our source, the God of peace Himself, will be with us.
Now, if we continue to read through the rest of Philippians chapter 4, Paul tells us that, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content …” – In any and whatever circumstances Paul finds himself, he has learned how to be content and how to abide in the peace of God with the God of peace. When we read this, sometimes it can be easy to elevate Paul to Super-Apostle status, living somewhere on a higher level than us. However, the truth is that Paul was simply a human, in desperate need of God’s grace, just like us. And just like us, he went through times of experiencing anxiety and discontentment (if he did not, then he would not have had to learn and practice that which he wrote to the Philippians about). In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we are also encouraged with the truth that when we seek God and focus on Him, He will meet us where we’re at and provide His peace. These are beautiful promises. They are also promises which require us to be present before the throne of Jesus, in the present moment.
In his book, The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien paints a picture of momentary respite where four weary and fearful hobbits experience peace in midst of their circumstances by finding rest in the safety and presence of Tom Bombadil and his home: “… all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds. The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.”
This is such a beautiful picture of what it means to be mindful in the present moment, and to find rest and renewal. For us, that rest and renewal is found in the Presence of our Lord. There will always be uncertainties, things you cannot control, do not foresee, and possibly even dread just around the corner. However, you are not there yet. And the unfolding of what is to come is not for you to know. For now, you are to enjoy the moment. Take it in. Be mindful of where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing. Be present, for it is in the present that we experience the Presence and peace of God who is both the giver of guarding-peace which surpasses all understanding and the Prince of Peace.
Jesus comforts us in John 16:33, telling us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”