Have you ever faced an overwhelming situation? Confronted a series of events that had you ready to throw in the figurative towel? Have circumstances ever left you discouraged, downcast or on the cusp of despair? Perhaps failing health or a toxic work environment? Maybe you are dealing with a painful family situation or a difficult financial condition that yields little hope for the future.
Do circumstances similar to these generate unmanageable levels of stress and anxiety? Do they rob you of a restful night’s sleep or produce an unsettled spirit? Would you prefer to experience peace in these situations instead?
If so, consider this invaluable counsel from the apostle Paul: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV).
Paul knew a thing or two about difficult circumstances, having suffered beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, attacks, false accusations, and all manner of peril (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 for a thorough account of his trials). And each of these ordeals resulted from his commitment to Jesus. In fact, his decision to embrace Christ led to his loss of status, wealth, influence, and power. His words, then, are not spoken in a vacuum void of personal experience with trials and pain. While you may face an entirely different set of circumstances, find comfort in Paul’s words – spoken from a place of first-hand knowledge.
He begins by encouraging us to “be anxious for nothing.” In other words, stop worrying. Refuse to allow personal circumstances to produce angst or fear. How was Paul able to maintain this outlook in the face of relentless difficulty and suffering? The key, he tells us, is perspective.
He explains: “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NKJV).
Paul identifies several truths we need to remember. First, our trials are momentary. Even lifelong troubles are fleeting when viewed through the lens of eternity with God. Allow the promise of everlasting life with Christ to sustain you through whatever circumstances the world throws at you.
Second, remember that difficult situations serve a specific purpose: they mold us into the person God wants us to be and validate the authenticity of our faith. The apostle Peter informs us, “Though now, for a little while, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7, NKJV). Paul weighs in on the topic with this wisdom: “We also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces endurance; and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, NKJV).
Third, Paul reminds us to focus on the eternal, not the temporal. The things we see now will soon be gone but the unseen things will last forever. When we re-orient our perspective around the eternal, we are better able to bear the challenges that confront us in this world.
Returning to Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he counsels believers to go before the Lord and make known their requests. Although God already knows our needs and circumstances, our prayers demonstrate faith and trust in Him. In addition, they should spring forth from a grateful heart that recognizes previous blessings He has bestowed on us, including mercy, forgiveness and salvation. Go to God in confidence that He hears your supplications and knows your situation.
Paul concludes with a promise that should encourage every believer: “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Paul refers to God’s peace as the guardian of our hearts and minds. And it is a peace so extraordinary that it exceeds our ability to comprehend it – a peace vastly superior to any peace offered by the world.
Recognize that what makes the peace of God so incomprehensible and superior is its manifestation in the midst of our difficult circumstances. God gives His peace in the throes of our pain, suffering, and challenges – unlike the world’s peace, which exists only under favorable conditions. So while the world’s peace simply reflects peaceful circumstances, the peace of God reflects The Almighty Himself.
Jesus emphasizes this point with His disciples. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27, NKJV). What a comforting promise. Jesus offers us permanent peace through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, not a tempestuous peace that ebbs and flows with circumstances.
As difficult situations arise in life, meditate on these lessons from God’s Word. Do not let your heart be anxious. Instead, cast your concerns on the Lord and praise Him with thanksgiving. Remind yourself that the challenges of this world are momentary while the blessings of God last for eternity. Remember that the Lord knows your situation and will use it to grow your faith, build your character, and shape you into His unique creation. Finally, rejoice that the peace of God transcends circumstance and flourishes in the midst of life’s most challenging trials.
I hope these truths encourage you today.