Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus
Moving from our second week of Advent, we are talking about peace. I really don’t understand this, and it may not be completely true. But my experience has been that whenever I’m about to speak on something, I get spiritually attacked. I knew that this Sunday was focusing on the theme of peace, and it was one of the most anxious weeks I had experienced in a long time. I struggle with anxiety, and I have written on this in many posts. I’ve had it for a long time, and with the help of counseling, I’ve begun to understand triggers. I know what will cause more anxiety, and I try my best to talk to myself in those situations to calm down. (This is the idea of self-talk)
But it seemed that this past week that thing after thing after thing kept piling up upon my family and myself. At dinner one night, my mom started quoting the Psalm that says save me, oh God, because the waters are rising over me up to my neck. That’s how it has felt this week. It felt like we were drowning. We’re having some weird things at our church, weird things in relationships, weird things with me post-grad, and then the semi-unexpected loss of my grandfather (my mom’s dad).
We have had every reason to be anxious; we have all these things coming at us. Like fiery darts (to borrow from Job and Ephesians).
And it was then that this verse came back to me. It’s one of those verses that Christians quote all the time. It’s an amazing verse promising the presence of God in the storm of life. Paul is in prison. He is writing this beautiful love letter to the church. The tone of Philippians is always warm and welcoming, and he writes to them pastorally. As he comforts them, he is also comforting himself. Paul knew what it was like to have much and to have little. And in all of these seasons, he believes that it is the presence of Christ that strengthens him to persevere.
I came to this verse, and read it again and again.
We do not have because we do not ask, so in that moment, I asked for the peace of God that transcends all understanding. I actually did this exercise with my youth group on Sunday for prayer, and I asked each student to vocalize what was causing them stress and then to ask God for peace for it.
I remember one of my last chapels in seminary, our president gave a sermon talking about wounds and scars. He was talking to us as young people about to enter vocational ministry complaining that they didn’t have enough world experience to effectively minister to folks. He encouraged us by saying that we don’t have to worry about being too young or too inexperienced; the church will do that to us.
It was said in a joking manner, but it’s absolutely true. We gain experiences simply by being in situations and living through them. John Wimber once famously said that leaders lead with a limp. That is, we use our painful experiences as part of our stories, and we keep going.
It’s the peace of Christ that strengthens us to keep walking. Even in the deserts or the valleys or storms or whatever other image helps us to understand that suffering is part of life. We all will experience hardships, and Christians are not immune to pains.
But it is Christ’s sustaining peace. He is, after all, the Prince of Peace, so we come to him to ask for peace. This week, I hope that you experience peace as we remember the good news of Christ’s coming.