I guess “stop by” is probably the wrong phrase, because even while they’re there, they definitely don’t stop. Their little wings move so fast they hum (hence their name, obviously) as they flit around from flower to flower. The first few times I saw them, I was struck by the way they move about - seemingly floating on air, but with wings beating a gazillion times a minute to stay afloat. Actually, hummingbirds rotate their wings like a figure eight up to 4,800 times per minute! Impressive, but I remember thinking to myself, how exhausting.
I also remember feeling like I could relate, at least as far as my mind goes. I’m often good at maintaining calm on the outside, but my mind moves a gazillion miles a minute trying to keep track of it all, juggling 5,000 things I probably have no business worrying about.
For most of my life, I’ve been a pretty anxious person. If left unchecked, I’m no stranger to worry, restless nights, tension headaches, and convincing myself that the world is ending. What-ifs and worst-case scenarios are often my default. This is a constant growing edge of mine and something I’ve been learning to cope with and work through for awhile now.
Now I do want to make a quick distinction here before we continue. The type of anxiety I’m describing is difficult, but for me, it’s manageable. However, I know that there are many people who struggle with an official anxiety disorder and who are often helped by a prescription. Sometimes that’s what we need and that’s okay. So the remainder of this episode is not intended to suggest we throw away guidance from medical professionals in learning to navigate our anxiety.
That being said, as a naturally anxious person who often lets worry get the best of her, turning to my faith is definitely part of how I cope. And one of the passages I often turn to is found near the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
In Philippians 4:6-7, we read these familiar words:
6 Do not worry 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.
I’ll be honest, I’ve often read these verses and tried to implement the first half as some kind of magic formula that will bring me peace. Step One: don’t worry. Step Two: pray and ask God for what you need. But Step Two Side Note: don’t treat God like some sort of genie. Step Three: make sure God knows I’m doing all of this with a thankful heart. Full disclosure: I usually get it wrong right off the bat with step one.
For the longest time, that formula mindset has been a stumbling block because in trying to settle my mind, I get caught up in making sure I’m doing it right. Which, you guessed it, leads to more worry. But I’m realizing that maybe my trying to break it down and simplify it has actually led to it being harder than it’s supposed to be. Maybe, try as I might, I can’t force peace.
I’ve recently been honing in on the peace of God surpassing understanding. At the root of most of my worry is a felt need to control. Hence my formula. And while this isn’t always the case across the board, I also find that my wanting to understand is rooted in control, too. If I could just understand everything going on in our world and my life and this day, than I might have a better chance of controlling it. Maybe you can relate?
But this passage reveals an important and meaningful truth. The peace of God is greater than my being able to understand or control. And so the first half of this passage isn’t some sort of formula for us to master, but a reminder that we can always come to God because God is with us, carrying us through.
We can talk to God about our worries, our fears, our confusion, our unanswered questions. It’s not about making a compelling case for God or even praying the right way, but it’s remembering that we live life WITH God, moment by moment, day by day. It’s remembering that our lives and each of our many concerns are held by God, so while we can always find something to be thankful for, we can also come to God with an honest posture. And the peace of God will carry us through.
I opened this episode comparing my mind to a hummingbird. I promise I don’t have anything against hummingbirds - I am actually fascinated by them. But if my anxious mind is like a hummingbird, I wonder what a mind at peace might look like? Maybe we can turn to the beginning of Isaiah 40:31:
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
I think an eagle might provide that picture of a life at peace. Soaring with wings open-wide, relying on the wind, a slow, steady, strong, intentional flap every so often. What we find is that the peace of God enables us to soar.
I don’t know what specific worries might be plaguing you today. Maybe there are worries about the future, worries about a loved one, worries about your own well-being. Worries about a situation at work, or maybe FINDING work, worries about a relationship or certain responsibilities or a medical diagnosis. Can you feel them piling up? Are your mind and heartbeat racing trying to keep it all together?
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks into the worries of our lives. In Matthew 6:25-34 he reminds us,
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Consider the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[k] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his[m] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Today, if you are anxious or worried, restless, or tense, remember, God cares for you and carries you through. You are not in this alone. May we confidently come to God with all our concerns, trusting that God’s peace will be with us.