“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Should Be Replaced with Don’t Worry, Be Thankful!

Verse 5 of Paul’s letter to the Philippians ends with the statement, “The Lord is near.” Then, it continues with, “Be anxious for nothing….” The Greek word translated “anxious” means literally to be drawn in opposite directions. It conveys the idea of being divided, pulled apart and distracted.

This is what worry does. It distracts us, dividing our attention, drawing us in opposite directions, pulling us from the tasks at hand. Worry distracts us and draws us from faith and trust in God and His promises.

Paul goes on to say: “Be anxious[1] for nothing[2], but in everything by prayer[3] and supplication[4] with thanksgiving[5] let your requests be made known to God. And the peace[6] of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

The word translated, “anxious,” is in the present imperative, meaning to stop (right now!) being anxious. Stop being divided in your affections. Stop being distracted and pulled in different directions. Stop it, right now! Stop, being distracted by worry and fear.

The passage is predicated on the statement that the Lord is near! The Creator of the Universe is near us; He is with us. Implied is the question: What shall we fear if God is with us?

Paul’s statements echo the words of Jesus. Does not our heavenly Father clothe the lilies in the field? Does He not care for the birds? How much more does He care for you and me? (Matt. 6:25-30)

Because God is near, Paul says we should be anxious for nothing: no thing, not even one thing. Elsewhere, he said nothing can separate us from the love of God.

“[N]either death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

We have no reason to be anxious when we fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2) who is near us.

In everything, every single thing that we face, we are instructed to make our requests known to God by prayer and supplication. God expects, and He desires us to bring our concerns to Him. Paul’s words echo Jesus again in this. (Luke 11:13: Matt. 7:11)

But God is not a Candy Man; He is our Father. He wants a relationship with us. He wants to come to Him when we are anxious. He wants us to come to Him when we have needs. He wants us to come to Him when we are thankful. He wants us to come to Him.

When we are going through difficulty, when we are anxious, when we have sinned, when we have been hurt, when we are happy, God wants us to come to him.

We may be tempted to want to meet our needs ourselves or find another person who we think can meet them. We may be tempted to celebrate successes with food, drink and people. We may be tempted to fill our anxious moments with pacifiers like drink, or busywork or television. We may be tempted to fill our time with sports or fashion or fishing or anything other than God.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things in and of themselves, unless they keep us from coming to God. In everything, we should go to God by prayer.

The Greek word for prayer here includes the idea of exchange. It is not a one way street. God desires two-way communication. He wants us to bring him our requests, but he also wants to speak to us! He wants us to make our requests known, but He wants us to listen for his response. He wants interaction with us.

In everything, by prayer and supplication, we should make our requests known. Supplication is our heartfelt entreaty. He wants our deep involvement, our heartfelt petitions. This is no generic confession, but a heart to heart, soul bearing approach to God – who already knows those things that weigh heavily on our minds.

God knows our thoughts and the words on our lips before we even say them, but He wants us to say them! He wants us to pour ourselves out to Him because He wants to pour Himself out to us!

By prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, we should let our requests by known to God. Thanksgiving for God’s grace and love for us is the attitude we should have in prayer. Regardless of whether God grants our requests or responds to our prayers and supplications, we should always be grateful for his grace and love for us. Especially, when He answers our prayers and responds, we should be thankful.

Thanksgiving is an attitude and a posture that is the fertile soil of the heart in which God can do his redemptive and uplifting work. We mistakenly seek happiness when gratitude is path that leads to love, hope, faith and joy. A heart filled with thanksgiving is a heart in which God finds ready habitation.

If you do these things, – in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, letting our requests be made known to God – the peace of God that passes understanding will guard our hearts. This is the peace that flows from being rightly connected, in sync, with God our This peace is not connected to our circumstances, otherwise it would be fleeting, and come and go with the ups and downs we experience in our lives.

No, this peace passes understanding! The peace of God makes no sense in the circumstances, and this is precisely how you can know that this peace is from God – because it is peace that is not dependent on our circumstances. The peace that passes understanding is peace that comes from connection with God.

Don’t be anxious! Go to God and pour out your heart. He knows your heart, but we can only know Him and the peace that passes understanding if we go to Him and engage God in prayer.

He knows your heart so be honest with Him. Lay out the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s already there, and God sees it, so lay it out to Him with a contrite and thankful heart.

When we read through the Psalms, we see David doing this. He lays out his doubts, confesses his sin, cries out with his despair, but he always ends with contrition and thanksgiving.

God meets us in our honesty and in our willingness to open up; He connects with us as we connect with Him. As we make our requests known and listen reciprocally for the Spirit of God to speak into our hearts and minds, we have communion with God.

One rule of thumb is to pray through to peace. If you don’t have peace, you have stopped too soon!

We know that are connected with God as the peace of God begins to guards our hearts and minds. Don’t settle for less. Doesn’t want you to settle for less!

This is the goal of prayer: to have communion with God and to enter into His peace. Anxiety is the symptom of disconnection with God as peace is the sign of connection with God.

Don’t worry, be happy may be an anthem for light-hearted, careless living, but happiness ebbs and flows with circumstances. The peace of God surpasses understanding and does not ebb as long as we are connected in heartfelt prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to God.


[1] 3309/merimnáō (from 3308/mérimna, “a part, as opposed to the whole”) – properly, drawn in opposite directions; “divided into parts” (A. T. Robertson); (figuratively) “go to pieces” when pulled apart (in different directions), such as by the force of sinful anxiety (worry). Merimnaō is “an old verb for worry and anxiety – literally, to be divided, distracted” (WP, 2, 156).

[2] 3367/Mēdeís (from 3361/mē, “not a possibility” and 1520/heís, “one”) – properly, “no one, nothing” – literally, “not even one.” Mēdeis is a “conceptual negative” that rules out something even as a possibility.

[3] 4335/Proseuxē (from 4314/prós, “towards, exchange” and 2171/euxē, “a wish, prayer”) – properly, the exchange of wishes; prayer. True prayer (proseuxē) is personal interaction with God to exchange our wishes (human intentions) for learning God’s will through faith (“His inworked persuasion”).

[4] 1162/Déēsis (deō, “to be in want, lack”; see the cognate 1189/déomai, “praying for a specific, felt need”) – heart-felt petition, arising out of deep personal need (sense of lack, want). Deēsis (“felt-need petition”) represents an intense request by the petitioner who is deeply, personally involved.  By definition, it is not something taken lightly (or merely “external”).  This beseeching (focused petitioning) proceeds out of an “emphatic sense of personal need” (Abbott-Smith).  Such “petitionary prayer” springs from deep, personal need (lack) and desire (WS, 1020).

[5] 2169/Exaristía (from 2170/euxáristos, “thankful for God’s grace”) – properly, thankfulness (thanksgiving, “grace gladness”) – literally, “the giving of thanks for God’s grace.”

[6] 1515/Eirēnē (from eirō, “to join, tie together into a whole”) – properly, wholeness, with all essential parts joined together; peace (God’s gift of wholeness).

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