"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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."
- Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
As I read these words during the week of Thanksgiving, it reminds me that this is a perfect time to take a deep breath, both literally and figuratively. It is a good time for a 'reset', to turn our eyes away for just a moment from social media, from current events, from all the ills with which our society is afflicted, and simply pause to give thanks.
I love this letter to the Philippian church for many reasons: the church was started by Paul and Lydia; the first documented Christ follower in Europe, who also happened to be a woman. It has a theme of joy even though it was written by Paul when he was in prison. The entire letter serves as strong encouragement for whatever we are facing, but this passage in particular is a remedy for trying times.
Rejoice always! No matter how bad things seem. No matter what the future may or may not hold. No matter if things are going the way you think they should. Rejoice because you are loved by a God who is real and who cares for you more deeply than you can ask or imagine. And He has things well under control.
Let your gentleness be evident. Isn't gentleness a sign of weakness? Not at all! In a world where so many are shouting, gentleness is sign of strength, wisdom, and a fruit of the spirit. It no doubt takes the spirit of God living actively in us to allow that gentleness to be evident to all! But what blessing can come from it.
Do not be anxious about anything: The political environment, your income, your life situation, your car that isn't working right, your relationships that are faltering fast, your future possibilities even as they appear bleak. Do not be anxious about them. There is a better way.
Present your requests to God WITH THANKSGIVING! If we decide against anxiety, what are we to do with our worries? Present them to God. Lay our burdens at the feet of Jesus. Admit that our anxious worry won't accomplish anything, but through Him we can accomplish all things. He is our joy, our strength, our wisdom and our hope. He is also our only true peace.
That transcends all understanding. When I look at the troubles I face even today, I can not see a way out of them, and I can not understand how I could possibly find peace in my situation. There is nothing in my line of sight that suggests peace is even a possibility. Maybe that;s why Paul, sitting in a jail cell, reminds us that the peace God gives is beyond anything we can even understand. Which is a positive thing.
I wish you and yours a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING! May we turn our eyes towards the one who made us and give thanks for the breath we breathe, and for every blessing He has shown us over the past year. “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” - Charles Dickens