by Campus Missionary Mary Rowley
based on Philippians 4:4-13
There are a few familiar verses in this passage, one of them being verse 7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When I glanced at my footnote for verse 7, it made me laugh. It stated: “When life makes no sense, God’s peace sustains and directs us.” I laughed because I wondered when life does make sense! I don’t think it happens very often. This verse is a good reminder that God is there for us through the nonsense of our lives.
However, when a verse starts with the word “And,” it’s a good policy to see where the thought began. Verses 4-6 start out with a command: to rejoice in the Lord always. It’s so important to Paul that he repeats it again. He encourages us to me reasonable and not to be anxious, because the Lord is at hand. Then, he tells us to bring everything to God through prayer and supplication – but with thanksgiving as well. If we do these things, Paul says, we will be guarded by the peace of God. It’s not something that’s just handed to us; it requires action on our part.
Why is that? Isn’t God’s peace something he wants to give us? It seems out of character for God to expect us to work for his peace. What does God’s peace even mean? When I think of peace, I think of stillness and harmony. God’s peace allows us to rest in his presence. God’s peace is safe and calm. So when Paul tells us that God’s peace requires us to rejoice, to reject anxiety, and to pray, I can see the necessity of those things in order for us to feel safe, calm, and in the presence of God.
If we forget to rejoice in the Lord, we are focusing on the world instead. If we allow ourselves to be anxious, we are rejecting God’s presence. If we neglect to pray, we are refusing to acknowledge the safety God provides. All of these things are necessary in order for us to feel God’s peace. Paul’s description is accurate. It’s not that God requires our actions to give us peace; it’s that our actions naturally result in either God’s peace or our own disorder. When we catch ourselves in anxiety, or forgetting to pray or rejoice, we should repent and then rest in God’s peace.