RELIGION
11/17/2014 12:45 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2014

What Philippians 4:6-7 Bible Passage Can Teach Us About Managing Anxiety Today

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People turn to the Bible for support with many challenges, and chief among them is anxiety.

According to data released by Amazon on the most highlighted passage in Kindle ebooks, the most popular passage from the Bible is one on reducing anxiety and finding trust in God.

The specific passage is Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version), which states:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Most Biblical scholars agree that the apostle Paul composed Philippians while he was in prison, Greg Carey, a professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary, told HuffPost.

That Paul was able to reject anxiety even during his own imprisonment, Carey said, "makes this passage all the more encouraging."

Rev. Winnie Varghese said that although it might seem novel to see Biblical writers addressing modern worries, this lesson is timeless and can affect anyone.

"I think it speaks to how terrifying life often is, particularly when we are taking risks or challenged by crisis," Varghese told HuffPost. "The life of faith is filled with the constant challenge to risk more to become our true selves."

That element of risk is embedded in passage. The lines before and after Philippians 4:6-7 encourage readers to "rejoice in the Lord," but also to enact gentleness, make sacrifices for others and focus on "whatever is true" and "whatever is admirable."

Brandon Dale, a Brown University student, said he often turns to Biblical study to deal with school pressures and anxiety -- and he finds this one to be particularly powerful because of its complexity.

"This passage shows the vast amount of love that God has for us and trust that we must have in God," Dale said. "But at the same time, the passage does not simplify the complexity of that love or trust."

Dale noted that Paul doesn't just write "Do not be anxious," but rather says "Do not be anxious about anything." This challenge can seem overwhelming, but it goes on to offer steps for reaching peace.

"Within the very same line," Dale said, "I can find tangible, definitive steps to attain this comfort, 'by prayer and petition.'"

Everyone can understand the feeling of circumstances being out of their control, and these are often the things we care most about, Varghese said. But this passage offers readers some comfort.

"As Christians, we have a way to acknowledge [our anxiety] and even plead in our despair and feel that we are not alone."

HuffPost

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