Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NET)

My wife and I had an opportunity to spend a couple of days at the beach last week – the first time this summer! It was wonderful, even if we did have to make adjustments due to the coronavirus, and even though we had to delay our visit because of a hurricane! When we arrived, the ocean was still quite active, and consequently there were rip current warnings posted everywhere. We were reminded that the best way to escape a rip current is not to directly fight against it. Instead, the best thing to do is to swim parallel to the shore, call for help, and try not to panic. (I also found that sitting on the beach reading a good book is a great way to avoid rip currents!)

As I thought more about all of this, it occured to me that the tension in our world these days is a lot like a rip current. There is so much anxiety in our world right now! It is as if the whole world is caught up in a rip current! Sometimes we are tempted to simply ignore it, but this is not healthy in the long run. And sometimes we are tempted to fight against it, but this can be exhausting and overwhelming. The solution? Maybe it is simply to acknowledge our anxieties, stay afloat, and ask for help. And as people of faith, we believe that this help is freely offered to us by our loving God.

I was introduced recently to a powerful meditation on anxiety offered by Howard Thurman in his book, Meditations of the Heart, that I want to share here. But before I share it, I think it’s important to acknowledge that while all of us experience anxiety, there may be some people reading this who are experiencing something different – an anxiety disorder. This is described by NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) in this way: “When feelings of intense fear and distress become overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday activities, an anxiety disorder may be the cause.” You can read more about that here: Anxiety Disorders. There are many causes of anxiety disorders and many different treatments, just as there are with physical illnesses like heart disease or cancer. As an analogy, think of the fact that most of us experience stress, but not all of us experience high blood pressure or heart disease. In the same way, most of us experience anxiety, but not all of us experience an anxiety disorder. Please do not think that I am suggesting that this meditation is sufficient treatment for an anxiety disorder! But with that said, here is Thurman’s meditation:

God Is Present – Howard W. Thurman

God is present with me this day.

God is present with me in the midst of my anxieties.  I affirm in my own heart and mind the reality of His presence.  He makes immediately available to me the strength of His goodness, the reassurance of His wisdom and the heartiness of His courage.  My anxieties are real; they are the result of a wide variety of experiences, some of which I understand, some of which I do not understand.  One thing I know concerning my anxieties:  they are real to me.  Sometimes they seem more real than the presence of God.  When this happens, they dominate my mood and possess my thoughts.  The presence of God does not always deliver me from anxiety but it always delivers me from anxieties.  Little by little, I am beginning to understand that deliverance from anxiety means fundamental growth in spiritual character and awareness.  It becomes a quality of being, emerging from deep within, giving to all the dimensions of experience a vast immunity against being anxious.  A ground of calm underlies experiences whatever may be the tempestuous character of events.  This calm is the manifestation in life of the active, dynamic Presence of God.

God is present with me this day.

I love Thurman’s reminder that the presence of God does not always deliver us from anxiety but does always deliver us from anxieties. Our anxieties can be turned into prayers when trust in this promise, and when we remind ourselves (frequently!) that God is present with us. When we do this, we discover the “ground of calm” that underlies all of our experiences, no matter how tempestuous they might be. Our anxieties are still real, but little by little they can be given to God, and one of the best ways to do this is simply to remind ourselves that God is present with us this day.

I know that I will be turning back to these words of Howard Thurman’s whenever I find myself getting caught up in my anxieties to make sure that I am keeping up my “immunity against being anxious.” The rip currents of anxiety are everywhere in our world these days – ignoring them is not wise, and fighting directly against them is exhausting. So instead, let’s acknowledge them, stay afloat, and ask for God’s help.

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NET)

7 thoughts on “Anxieties, Rip Currents, and the Peace that Surpasses All Understanding

  1. Beautiful photo. Wonderful words of timeless truths in the quotes and in your own comments. An ever present problem indeed. As CSLewis said in A Grief Observed “Grief is fear”. I often wonder if the fear/anxiety that humanity suffers is grief for the days of Eden and the uninterrupted companionship of the Almighty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I certainly see grief everywhere, and your comment made me think of Philippians 3:20 – “our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” This world is not our eternal home, and so there will always be a longing, I think, for something more. And because of that, perhaps part of our fear/anxiety is God-given, because it keeps us longing for eternity and for that uninterrupted companionship. Thanks for your thought-provoking comment.

      Oh, and the picture was taken during our beach trip last week – Sunset Beach, North Carolina.


      1. Thank you for your interesting response. It’s certainly clear that the Lord allows these trials for our benefit so that we turn to him in repentance. And indeed we are designed to long for the eternity to come of perfect union with Him.

        Glad you enjoyed your trip to Sunset Reach. Thank you for introducing your readership to its beauty.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It seems these days that the anxiety I do have, is calmed by HIS word for me. Let us remain faithful in spending time with our LORD and not always, but more times than not, HE will give you that peace that goes beyond all understanding. We can let the world pull us into all it’s chaos, or to be obedient to HIS calling. It is good that you were able to enjoy the beach and rest that you found there. We have had to cancel 3 trips this summer, but we finally are able to just go up in the mountains here in AZ. In Sedona, HIS peace reigns everywhere!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We were definitely thankful for our trip, and I am sure you were for yours, too, but you are right – our true peace is always found in Jesus, who gives us peace not as the world gives, which means the world can’t take it away either! Blessings to you and your family.

      Liked by 1 person

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