Being anxious for nothing, prayerful in everything, and thankful for anything sets the stage for the best part: the promise. "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).
I'll let you in on a little trade secret: not every believer has the peace of God. When you come to faith in Christ, you have peace with God, but not necessarily the peace of God—at least not yet. Peace with God comes when you put up the white flag and say, "I'm done fighting You, God. I give my life to You, Jesus. Please forgive me." At that moment in time, you may not feel peace, but that's because peace with God is a fact that comes at salvation.
The peace of God, on the other hand, is a feeling that is the result of sanctification. Look at it like this: Jesus as Savior brings peace with God, but Jesus as Lord brings the peace of God. The peace of God is a tranquil feeling of confidence that no matter the circumstances, God is in control of the universe and your life.
One of the ways you'll recognize the peace of God is right there in Paul's description: it surpasses all understanding. It transcends human intellect and analysis. You can try to explain it, but you never fully could. When anxiety overwhelms you, this is just the kind of peace your heart cries out for. I often remind myself of the power of God's peace by reciting Isaiah 26:3 in times of stress: "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You."
And this perfect peace "will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Remember what anxiety does to your mind? It divides it. God's peace will watch over your mind and keep your heart safe by the strength of Christ—by the same power that raised Him from the dead and glorifies His name above all others.
With God, anxiety is never the endgame. It's something you go through. It's just like David wrote: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me" (Psalm 23:4). With God at our side, we walk through the dark places in life. We're not stuck in them, or at least we don't have to be.
With Jesus guarding your heart and mind, you'll have a peace that doesn't make sense under the circumstances but makes all the difference in staving off the anxiety that threatens to take you down.
Consider using this closing prayer as a template for responding to what you've learned over the past seven days:
Father, in this moment of prayer, my mind can grab hold of any number of things that threaten to steal my peace, divide my mind, and pull me away from trusting in You. So I bring myself to recall: You are my Father. I am Your child. I come to You for help with these specific requests. Help me redirect my energy and my thoughts toward You. Replace my anxiety with worship, supplication, and thanksgiving. Let me experience Your inexplicable peace, and guard my heart and mind from worry. Thank You that although hard times are part of life, You give joy to those who walk through it all with You. Will You help me walk in that joy today? Thank You, Jesus. Amen.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3 ESV