On Relinquishing Control, A Prayer for Anxiety | Philippians 4:6-7
Reflective anxious thoughts and study of Philippians 4:6-7 on how God is in control in the midst of anxiety.
Anxiety is unsettling. The moment we sense it, we look for a way out.
And in this vast, expansive, and creative world, our solve to anxiety is often the alluring illusion of control. Its promises—to offer certainty to the stress and worries of the human life. A life of success, security, and predictability. It woos us into soothing our sores of anxiety. We begin to trust in our 5-year plans, the credentials of our profession, and forecasts of the bright road ahead.
But, human life is messy; and somewhere along the way the illusion is removed. We return to the unpredictability of our complex world. Anxiety creeps back in, and we find ourselves unsure with how to move forward.
Anxiety and Control—Two sides of the same coin that lack the power in allowing us to live a full, and flourishing daily life.
As Christians, we’re invited into an alternative narrative for helping with the woes of the human experience. We reflect on the guidance of Paul from his letter to the anxious church of Philippi:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to dear God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in lord Jesus Christ." — Philippians 4:6-7
Paul gives us a natural response for coming to face with our anxieties: A spiritual petition to something greater. Instead of trying to establish control, we’re encouraged to offer our experiences to God. This is not an intuitive process; in many ways petitioning is the exact opposite of establishing control. But, in the process—even if our circumstances do not change—we are offered the gift of peace that “transcends all understanding”.
Art and creativity can help serve as a metaphorical conduit for Paul’s understanding of petitioning in the face of anxiety. Pat Steir, critically acclaimed for her paint pouring mark-making, reflects on the relationship between artist, paint and canvas:
“The spiritual in my art is giving up control. My paintings are based on what I can do, and what I can do is not controlled. So I give up control, and that's the spirituality of the work - taking what comes and relinquishing control. Although they look very controlled, they're really not, because it's all poured paint.”
The beauty of art is that the artist is never fully in control of their work. Petitioning to God is not so different. When we petition and ask, we release control to God, and we are free to embrace an acceptance to things as they are.
Letting the paint pour down in our careers.
Letting the paint pour down in our health.
Letting the paint pour down in financial hardships.
Letting the paint pour down when we have social anxiety.
Letting the paint pour down in our lives without correction or direction.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best in these areas of our lives, but it does mean there are certain things that are in God’s hands and not our own. When we feel it as all poured paint, a inner peace beyond all understanding begins to soothe our anxious wounds—we begin to feel a little more human, and a little closer to God. (For additional reflections on experiencing God in our creative practices, read: Morning, Afternoon, and Evening Practices to Cultivate Creativity)
God above, thank you that we can come to You always. Help us to come to you with our anxieties and release our desires for control. May the peace you offer, greater than our understanding, guard our anxious heart and our mind. Amen.
Words: Tyler Zak
Paintings: Pat Steir
For other ways to find solace from anxiety, consider reading a beautiful Bible.