There are times when the cares of this life weigh us down, causing us to feel like we’re being yanked to the ground by a force too strong to withstand. It becomes exhausting. In those moments, it’s easy to give in to the temptation to worry and fear. At those times, our choices become a matter of life and death.

We know, and often quote Philippians 4:6-7—and rightfully so. It encourages those who are anxious of heart. Read it with me again, right now.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  

We need to stop worrying and start praying with faith.

The only way to receive the peace that we so desperately desire is to turn our panic into prayer. For myself, I have been comforted and convicted by Paul’s words. But what I have learned through various experiences (both failures and victories) is that I need to keep reading the rest of what Paul said there.

In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells us how to overcome our anxiety. He writes, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Once we have prayed with thanksgiving, surrendering our anxious thoughts to God, we need to focus our energy on new thoughts—thoughts that are contrary to our old thoughts. Thoughts that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and praiseworthy.

The Lord doesn’t tell us what to let go of without also telling us what to lay hold of.

In college and graduate school, I studied abroad in three countries. Since I didn’t have a car, public transportation was one of the main ways in which I traveled daily. The city bus and subway trains in Mexico and Spain were always crowded. I usually had to stand for the entire ride. Now, if you’ve ever stood on a moving bus or speeding train with frequent, abrupt stops, you know it isn’t easy. Standing passengers must cling to a pole or grab a hanging strap to avoid falling, but I never wanted to touch those poles and straps. So I had to learn how to safely survive the ride, even though the force of the moving bus or train was pulling me down. Through many failed attempts, I finally figured out what I needed to do.

It wasn’t enough just to stand, because I still couldn’t resist the pull. I needed to do more. I needed to focus my energy in the opposite direction. I had to center my weight contrary to where my body naturally wanted to go. Once I began to do that, I was able to remain upright for the entire ride.

When we choose to stop focusing our energy on worries and instead, put that energy into prayer, the result is life changing.

The command to pray instead of worry frees and enables us to direct our thoughts and energy to what is true, lovely, and all that verse 8 tells us is praiseworthy. This is when we begin to experience that God-given peace that will help us stand upright, no matter how many bumpy rides and abrupt stops we encounter in our journey through this life.

So whatever is pressing in and weighing you down today, lean into God’s Word. Follow Paul’s tried-and-true method for turning from panic to prayer.

“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9 NLT).