Day 11

Practical Counsel

from the Philippians reading plan


Philippians 4:2-9, Matthew 6:25-34, John 15:7-11, Romans 8:5-6


Depression and anxiety have never been as prevalent in the United States as they are today. These twin burdens often afflict the same people, and they are afflicting more Americans than they ever have before. This is especially true among young people. From the 1990s to the early 2000s, rates of depression and anxiety were pretty stable. That isn’t the case anymore.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2012, about 5% of boys and about 12% of girls ages twelve to seventeen had a “major depressive episode” in the preceding year. In 2016, about 7% of boys and about 20% of girls had a major depressive episode—that is one in five American teenage girls having a major depressive episode. We are amidst an epidemic, and there are plenty of purported reasons why, but that’s for another place and another time. The point is this: As a culture, we are more anxious and depressed than we have ever been.

I have battled with serious feelings of anxiety myself. It can feel like a hole out of which it is impossible to climb. And while I don’t imagine the apostle Paul knew about the depression epidemic Americans would face in the 21st century, his words to us in Philippians 4 may serve us well as we fight the realities of our mental health struggles.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again:
Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone.
The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything,
through prayer and petition with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God (Philippians 4:4–6).

Let me be clear in saying this: the depression and anxiety we feel may not be simply solved by reading our Bibles and being encouraged to throw off anxiety and “rejoice!” It can be hard to find joy when the world feels like it’s closing in, and in a moment of distress, a few Bible verses may not immediately quell our feelings of helplessness. However, I do think it is important to read Paul’s words closely and examine our lives in light of them. I actually find it helpful to read these particular verses in reverse order. For our purposes today, consider this slight rearrangement:

The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything,
but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God…
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again:
Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone.

I must confess, there have been times when I’ve found myself rolling my eyes after reading Paul’s instruction to not worry. It feels as though there is no way Paul could understand what is causing my distress, so his charge to not worry feels invalid (though he was well acquainted with having to live life from a cell). But the reasoning he gives for why we should not worry is there alongside his charge to not do so. Why should we not worry? Because the Lord is near! This is a tremendous truth, a more than adequate remedy for whatever worry we may be facing.

When we are fighting any variety of anxiety and worry in our lives, we ought to ask ourselves: Do I truly believe Jesus is near? Or do I feel like I’m in a forever-deep hole by myself? Might we find peace even in our anxiety if we realized our Lord is truly by our side at all times and in all places? May He help us to believe what is always true: the Lord is near.

Written by Chris Martin

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One thought on "Practical Counsel"

  1. Kyle says:

    A lot of anxiety is stemmed from feeling alone… as if no one understands… thankful that God is near. I needed to read this today.

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