“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7)
I have always been a little frustrated with this passage from the Apostle Paul. What good does it do to say, “Do not be anxious about anything…?” That is like saying, “Do not think about your tongue.” As soon as it is said, you do it! We all have anxieties. I think what Paul is getting at is to not have destructive anxiety.
DISTRESS – Anxiety is a form of stress, and stress can have a positive or destructive effect on us. The bad kind of stress is “distress.” When we are in distress, our anxiety causes us to fixate upon the problem, to obsess over factors that we cannot control and ultimately to allow fear to dictate our responses. To be in perpetual distress is to allow yourself to live as if everything depended upon your own abilities. To be in distress is to become controlling as you try to limit the things that you fear from happening. To be in distress is to not believe that God is in ultimate control and He is working all towards an end for our good.
EUSTRESS – The positive form of stress is “eustress.” Eustress is what gives us that heightened awareness and extra-adrenal response to deal with challenges or special opportunities that come our way. When we have eustress, our pulse quickens into a fight or flight syndrome that provides resources to meet a challenge. To be in eustress is to energetically attack a challenge and push, and brainstorm and keep at it until you figure it out. To be in eustress is to not obsess over what you can’t change, but to give up control and trust that God will light your path. To be in eustress is to feel the challenge, but, in the midst of it, claim the promise that although in this world you will have trouble, God has overcome the world.
A Corpath member once said to me that all business start-ups take three times longer than you calculate and usually require twice as much capital than what you have planned! Both leading a start-up and running an existing business can throw unexpected challenges at us. This can result in crippling distress. Or, as Paul challenges us, we can find our way to eustress by starting with the attitude of thanksgiving, presenting our petitions to God and then accepting the peace of God which, contrary to all human understanding, will give you peace in the midst of what the world may regard as a distressful, anxious situation.
Perhaps, that is the very reason that some anxieties come our way – to guide us to the need for peace in Christ Jesus.
- Which kind of anxiety do you usually experience – distress or eustress?
- Reflect upon the steps to move through anxiety to the peace of God.