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.
Rejoicing in the face of trials and difficult circumstances leads to a surprising countenance in the spirit of the one rejoicing: gentleness. Just as anxiety and all the harshness it brings is contagious, so is gentleness. Gentleness, remember, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). It is the supernatural disposition of a person who knows deep down the Lord is near (Phil. 4:5b). Though he blaze with the brilliance of ten thousand suns, he whispers.
It’s why Paul wants us to let our gentleness “be evident to all” (Phil. 4:5a). Gentleness is a prerequisite to peace. The peace of God is the presence of God, and, though he be near, he can still be far from our perception and experience.
There’s a powerful story in 2 Kings 6 about the prophet Elisha in the midst of a dire situation. Because of Elisha’s strong help to the king of Israel, the king of Aram pursued him to death.
Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:14-17)
To rejoice in the face of trial is to swing the ax at the base of the tree of anxiety. A gentle spirit and disposition has a way of pushing back the borders of difficult circumstances and creating space for a different kind of response: prayer.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Prayer and petition with thanksgiving is not frantic, frenetic prayer. So often we worry our prayers, which can be another way of expressing our anxiety. Prayer and petition with thanksgiving means we must get out of praying in our heads and put our prayers into tangible, spoken language. Our prayers need to be more than thoughts. The importance of forming our prayers into audible words cannot be understated. Remember, in the faith of the Bible, words create worlds.
All of this paves the way for something genuinely new to happen:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes circumstances change. Sometimes they do not. It’s why we will soon hear Paul say, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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” (Phil. 4:12). It brings to mind the celebrated hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”
When peace like a river attenders my way; when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot thou has taught me to say, “It is well. It is well with my soul.”
Let’s set up camp and pitch our tent here for today.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who not only give us his peace but who is himself our peace. Come, Holy Spirit, and reveal our anxieties to us, surface it that it might be enveloped and evaporated by the peace of God. Lord Jesus Christ, come closer than our anxieties and guard our hearts and minds. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
- Do you tend to be more harsh or gentle with yourself?
- Could this harshness cloak anxiety just under the surface of your life? What would it look like to become attuned to your anxiety?
- Rejoicing is not a denial of our circumstances, but a faith-filled way of presenting our circumstances to God. How will the manner and language of your praying change in response to Paul’s teaching?
For the Awakening,