My favorite social medium is the podcast. I have a variety of podcasts I follow, including several that are religious or spiritual. One of these is the Inverse podcast, available on Apple podcasts, and hosted by Jarrod McKenna in Australia and Drew Hart in the United States.
Drew and Jarrod always get the conversation rolling with their guests by asking them to share Bible verses that are especially meaningful to them.
In the episode that aired on November 17, 2022, their guest was Lisa McNair, younger sister of Denise McNair, who was murdered with three other young girls in a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.
Lisa was born after Denise’s death, so she never knew her older sister personally, but grew up in the long shadow of Denise’s violent death. Dear Denise: Letters to the Sister I Never Knew, a book exploring Lisa’s feelings about Denise and her own complex experience as a Black person navigating the racial complexities of Birmingham, was published in September of 2022.
Lisa shared her very favorite Scripture passage: Philippians 4:6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
She said she had suffered from anxiety all her life, and that this passage was her “go to” passage when she was under stress. She described some of her life challenges, and mentioned an incident when she had a dangerously high blood pressure reading at a medical appointment. Engulfed in panic, she repeated this verse over and over to herself until her feelings calmed, and when the medical staff tried another reading, they found her blood pressure was reduced.
Lisa’s beloved verses are next door to one of my own all-time favorites, Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (NIV)
I admit I felt a little disappointed that Lisa hadn’t chosen my preferred verse to talk about on the podcast. I realized how silly that was and wondered why I hadn’t paid more attention to Philippians 4:6-7, which are beautiful, and fit together with Philippians 4:8 like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
How can you think on whatever is worthy of praise before you calm your racing thoughts and your anxious feelings with prayer? The peace of God is at the center of the passage. Pray, experience peace, and then focus your mind on the positive. It’s a process of maintaining serenity in difficult circumstances and protecting your mental health over the long term.
Some people have experienced turbulence and trials in their lives in ways I can barely comprehend. When people are troubled by anxiety and even panic, they can’t jump to thinking about all the true and noble things until they have some experience of God’s peace.
In my case, I’m quick to assume that I can make that jump easily without taking the time to pray and ask for God’s help with the things that burden me. We all have those things!
There are many times when I can focus easily, but it doesn’t hurt to get ready for the hard times with prayer and petition. All of us will have at least a few times when we desperately need to encounter the peace of God that we can feel and understand without having to put it into words.
What are your requests to God today? What anxieties need calming? Take a minute to let your prayers and petitions come into your mind, and present them to God with thanksgiving.
Here is a link to the Inverse podcast: https://jarrodmckenna.com/inverse-podcast/.