St. Paul urges the Philippians not to be anxious. He tells them, “There is no need to worry.” This may seem an unreal piece of advice. There is no way to avoid all worry. Good and sincere people are naturally worried about many things. It is part of the burden they carry precisely because they are people who care, who care about loved ones, and many other things.
But Paul is not talking about normal concerns. He is talking about anxiety. Nothing is more debilitating or fruitless than anxiety. Of itself it does nothing to solve our problems. Rather, the opposite is the case. By dissipating our energy, anxiety weakens us and makes it more difficult for us to find a solution to our problems.
The root of anxiety is lack of trust – lack of trust in oneself, in others, and especially in God. Hence, the first piece of advice Paul gives the Philippians is to pray. They must learn to commit their cares to the Lord: “If there is anything you need, pray for it.” He is not suggesting that prayer should take the place of action. Nor is he implying that their prayers will always be answered. What, then, does prayer do? Prayer implies a willingness to do what we can, and then to leave things in the hands of God. To accept what happens then as his will, even though we may not understand it.
Then Paul tells his readers to think positively. People who are over- anxious tend to think very negatively. They imagine the worst scenario. This is disastrous. We must concentrate on the good, not on the bad. Many people devour the newspapers every day or watch news on TV all day long. It”s hard to read the newspapers or watch TV these days without corning away depressed, so full are they of bad news. Instead of filling our minds with all kinds of trash, Paul says, “Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honor, everything that can be thought virtuous and worthy of praise.” The power of positive thinking is well known.
However, it is not just a question of thinking nice thoughts. We must try to do these things. Thoughts alone will not suffice. We must pursue goodness in our actions. Paul says, “Keep doing the things you have learned from me.”
In Jesus” parable of the vineyard a lot of ugly things happen. But evil does not have the last say. In the end good triumphs. This shows us that there is only one way to overcome evil, and that is with good. Jesus didn’t answer evil with more evil. He triumphed over evil by good.
If we do what we can, and put our trust in God, then Paul assures us that “the peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Peace comes, not from having an easy and tranquil life. We can have peace even in the midst of struggle and turmoil provided we are on the side of right. Then the God of peace will be with us.