It’s engraved on the front cover of my leather-bound prayer journal – Philippians 4:6. The journal is a gift I received from my wife, and the verse, one that I’ve focused my life upon in recent years. Both have helped me through tough times. And it just so happens to be the first verse of the second reading for today.
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
– Philippians 4:6
Whenever I encounter tough times, whenever I’m tempted to sin, whenever I do sin, whenever I read about or watch the senseless events unfolding in the world every day – this verse is at the forefront of my mind.
Why? Because the events of life, my own life and that of what goes on in society, have often brought about an anxiety, a worry within me. Because, like so many of you, I question why things happen, or ask God why I feel this way, or why certain people act the way they do. And so, when these things do happen, when I begin to feel that anxiousness in my chest, and feel it start to clench my mind and soul, when I begin to question, when I begin to doubt, when I begin to wonder why – I read this scripture. Not only this verse, but the ones that follow:
Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.
I think about the good things. I think about what and who I love, and where all that comes from – God. I think about His Son, about His Holy Spirit and how He is in the world, all around us, in the midst of all the turmoil, and it brings me peace. Not a peace in knowing why, but a peace in love, in hope, knowing that someday, somehow, it will be better. That Christ is there, beside me, beside all of us, looking to help us through.
Because if we don’t do this, if we don’t do what Paul writes of to the Philippians, if we don’t offer up our anxieties and worries to God in exchange for His peace, and we don’t think about all the good that He is in this world – then what is the alternative?
Well, we become the tenants in the vineyard today in the Gospel. We waste the opportunity we have been given. And we continue to be blind to God, to all that is good and beautiful before us in the midst of the pain, we dismiss Him, and we kill our relationship with God in the process. We don’t see Him for who He is, and we miss the very fact that Jesus is the foundation of all that is good and all that is love in the world. And even in the midst of evil and pain and tragedy, God is there with us, not sending the pain upon us, but simply there, to be a helping hand to get us through. He wants us to turn to Him!
We will have tears and pain and sorrow. We will have uncertainty. But through all that, there is one thing that is certain, and that one thing is Christ. Through it all, He who is good and gracious and pure excellence – in everything in this world, whether it be sitting and adoring His Presence in Adoration, or simply enjoying a mountain vista, or embracing the peacefulness of a beach and the waves crashing on the shore – Christ is there in all the beauty. He’s there in the people you encounter, who you work with and who you help. And who help you. He is there in your families, the newborn baby, the kids playing games out in the yard, yelling, laughing, carefree.
These are the things that carry us through life. These are the things that are pure and good. This is God in the world today, as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever will be.
I challenge you – when you encounter anxiety and worry, when you encounter pain, don’t turn away from Him. Reach out to Christ even more, pray even more, offer it up to Him, be thankful for what you do have, turn towards Him even more. Think of all that is good, amidst the bad. And stick with it. Be persistent. Remember His Word. And keep going back to Him when you fall.
And then the God of Peace will be with you. Always.