How’s your week been? I had a couple fun and productive songwriting sessions, but otherwise it’s been a heavy week around here. Octavia, my childhood best friend, called on Tuesday to tell me she’d lost her grandmother. On Wednesday, my college friends and I learned that Jason, a free-spirited, fellow music major, had passed away of a massive heart attack. I also found myself facing a personal loss this week which totally bummed me out, bringing on lots of tears and not much sleep. (But at least I now know 3 a.m. is a great time to blog!)
All this heaviness prompts me to ask: what does it look like to face sad days with peace and hope? Of course, we can’t avoid sadness. But how do we face it without being undone?
One of my favorite experts on conquering overwhelming circumstances is Paul, a 1st-century Christian martyr who began his career by persecuting Christians, but became one of the greatest teachers of the Gospel; his letters to the early church make up most of the New Testament. That’s the nature of God’s grace; it doesn’t matter where you begin, it only matters where God takes you.
Paul was very familiar with suffering. In his letter to the Philippians, he writes to his friends at the church in Philippi about how to find peace in their darkest moments. And he writes to them from his Roman prison cell. (Crazy, huh?)
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:12-13, NIV)
Paul seems to be convinced that not only is God greater than his circumstances, but He is present with him every step of the way, giving him strength to face whatever comes. How? Was Paul a super hero of the faith? Nah, he knew because of his beginnings he was no hero. He deserved the worst, but God had given him a new life in Christ. Because of that gift, Paul gratefully practiced certain behaviors that deepened his trust and contentment.
Pray Instead of Worry
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7, NLT)
Paul doesn’t suggest we try not to worry. He insists we conquer our worry by surrendering it to the One who can do something about it. And we don’t just surrender it. We thank God for how He will work through these circumstances.
I’ve been re-reading Brennan Manning’s Ruthless Trust and have been reminded how linked trust and gratitude are. “The person with an abiding spirit of gratitude is the one who trusts God,” Manning reminds us. The more we thank God in every circumstance, the more we see God’s hand in every circumstance, and the deeper our trust grows. The deeper our trust, the greater our peace.
Thinking It out
“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.” (Phil. 4:8 NIV)
There in his prison cell, Paul thought about the beautiful things he knew were true. The supernatural hand that carries us in our darkness is leading us to ultimate, eternal light. The God of the universe has bought us freedom for today and eternity. And because He suffered to do this, He can hold and comfort us in our suffering. I think Paul had figured out how to gaze on the lovely face of Jesus and see a gift greater and more powerful than any circumstance he could possibly face here on Earth. He knew that one day he would no longer be bound by chains or locked in a prison cell. One day loved ones would not be lost. One day circumstances would not be sad. Ultimate healing would come, and he would touch the face of the One he could only think upon now.
So if your week has been anything like mine, be encouraged! We, like Paul, can trust that Jesus is here holding us in every moment. We can tell Him of all we’re thinking and feeling, thank Him for how He will move in our lives, and think about all the magnificent beauty He has yet to show us – especially His beautiful face!
How do you find God’s peace in your darkest days?
PS: And just so you know there was some fun in my week, here’s the day my friend Kate and I showed up dressed exactly alike!