Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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. –Philippians 4:4-7
Did you begin reading that quote and then breeze through it, nodding it agreement? Yep, I know this passage.
That’s how I treated it for years, focusing on offering thanks before asking for things, in hopes of gaining that elusive peace.
Oh, friends, there is so much more here!
Or how much I needed it.
When my phone beeped, alerting me to a new Voxer message, I opened it to hear Kristin’s voice reciting this favorite passage. Concentrating on it in a way I haven’t in some time, the word “gentle” stood out to me.
Gentle. Not getting something from God, but being gentle.
Being calm, centered.
In the midst of slathering sunscreen on kiddos and tracing down float suits, deliberating the necessity of naps, carving out essential decompression time, and keeping my two-year-old monkey-son alive on a family vacation…I might have been oozing something, but it wasn’t gentleness.
In the following days, as various stresses arose, I tried to call this passage to mind. Eventually, simply repeating the word “rejoice” became enough to recenter me.
Rejoicing during stress seems counter-intuitive, but it reminds me that God never fails on His promises, and that is something in which to rejoice. The sky may be falling–sometimes it feels that way–but God is still faithful. I see His hand at work in details large and small, even on terrible, awful, no good, very bad days.
And then there is the part about the Lord being near. St. Paul reminds us that the Lord is near. That is no small thing. His mere presence is transformative. I can do nothing in my strength, but I can do anything with Him.
Lord, if you won’t change my circumstances, please change me!
And, if it says to anxious for nothing, then that must be possible. How do I accomplish not being being anxious? The next line says to make my requests known to God in everything. Everything. Not only the big things. Not only the little things. Not only the really holy things. Everything.
By prayer and supplication. With thanksgiving. Lay it out before Him, all of it. Talk to Him. Ask for what I need. Thank Him for what He’s done and in advance for what He will do.
And then comes the peace part. Apparently, there is this peace that surpasses all comprehension. Have you ever known such peace? The kind when your world is being ripped apart at the seams but somehow you’re not? The feeling of being carried is almost tangible. And you just know…
You’re going to be okay.
But, here’s something cool. I never thought much past gaining the peace that surpasses all comprehension. Turns out there’s a little bit more.
What does this peace actually do?
It is the peace that guards your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
Now, I’ve been trying to get a handle on this idea of guarding my heart for some time, and here it is in this phenomenal passage. This peace, granted by God as a result of prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, God’s nearness, gentleness, and rejoicing…will guard hearts! Somewhere in the process of getting to the peace is a surrender into the arms of the Lord and resting in Him. Almost an assent to His taking over and taking sweet care of my heart.
As I struggled with a recent difficult situation, I relayed to a friend how I saw God at work despite so much seeming to go wrong.
And she said, “It sounds like God is guarding your heart.”
That’s what guarding your heart means?
I’m sure oodles have been written on this topic, but her simple observation shined a light of understanding on it for me.
Also friends, if you haven’t been following dear, sweet Holley’s posts, well go do that right now! Because you are missing out.
She has been writing some amazing stuff about critics and whose voice to allow in and listen to on your journey.
A lot of heart-guarding goodness. Go read.
And, there you have it. A whole lot of non-scholarly thoughts on Philippians 4:4-7.
These might be my life verses.
What part of this passage stands out to you?
How does it encourage you?