Friday, May 8, 2015

the Lord is at hand.

Life is beautiful. And wonderful. But it's also very hard, usually more often than we anticipated. A verse that's been carrying me through recently has been Philippians 4:5-7.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The Lord is at hand
Could there be a more wonderful truth? The Lord is very near to us. That truth alone could get us through anything this world can throw at us. We may be hurt, we may be broken or grieving, but God is still near us, and He is still good. Even if we don't believe that He's with us - the fact is that He is. Nothing we can do will change the fact that God is close to us. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for "In Him we live and move and have our being"; as even some of your own poets have said, "For we are indeed his offspring." (Acts 17:27-28). We can rest knowing that no matter how we feel or what is going on around us, the Lord-the God of all the Universe-is near.
(A great reminder for just who this God is who is near to us is found in this video that I would highly, highly recommend. He Is (The Names of God) )

Do not be anxious about anything
This verse seems unfair. What about the intense struggles we're currently facing? Does Paul understand what it's like to lose someone or something precious to him? But anyone who knows Paul's story knows the answer is yes. When he became a Christian, he gave up his privileged status as a Pharisee and entered into a life of intense persecution. Every time he walked into a city, he was at risk of being arrested, imprisoned, or stoned - all very good reasons to be anxious. Yet he still commands us not to be anxious about anything. And he said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on." (Luke 12:22)

But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
When things are hard, we are often tempted with anger towards God and doubt. We may pray, but our prayers can become accusatory monologues, blaming God for our problems or doubting His sovereignty, love, or plan in this area of our lives. But that is why Paul adds thanksgiving to the list. If we can thank Him, we can remember that He is good. If we remember that He is a good and merciful God, we can learn to put our anger on where it belongs - sin. If we are praying with thanksgiving, we can remember what He has done and is still doing in our lives and in the lives of others. That is one of the fastest doubt-killers. The same God who brought Israel out in the exodus is your God. The same God who protected David from Saul is your God. The same God who welcomed the first martyr Stephen is your God. The same God who answered your prayers before is still your God now. Thanksgiving makes us remember that He is good and faithful. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28)

Let your requests be made known to God
God isn't bothered by our prayers. He loves to hear us pray to Him and tell Him our troubles. And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1) Our prayers are never perfect, and in a time of trial it can feel even harder to pray than it usually does. But even though He already knows all our troubles, He wants us to bring them to Him. It is for our benefit that we give him our troubles, not for His. Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22) And we need not be afraid that He will have a hard heart towards our prayers. Jesus knew how easy it is for fear to creep in, even into our prayer lives. But He assured His disciples that God loves to give us what we ask for when it is His will. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding
The reason the peace surpasses all understanding is because it doesn't make sense. Within the chaotic sea of emotions, peace is the last thing we would expect to see. Peace doesn't mean that there isn't a storm around us, it just means that we can have peace in knowing that He is still in control of the boat, no matter how big the waves. This is not a peace we can produce on our own - that is why Paul calls it the peace of God. And what a good and beautiful God He is! I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. (John 16:33)

Will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Trials are often very emotionally scarring. Sometimes we can break so much that we know we will never be the same. But the peace of God can guard us from some of those damaging effects. It can guard us from the lies that we will be tempted to believe. The key words are: in Christ Jesus. This is not a magic formula for peace. Peace comes when we know who Jesus is, how much He loves us, what He has already done for us on the Cross, and when we love Him with all our hearts. The solution is not to seek peace. The way to find peace is to seek Jesus. He has everything we need. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3). Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)

Whether life is sunny or stormy it's beautiful...because I know Jesus. He is always with me, and I can trust Him. He is so, so good.