Good Morning! Lord, we come to you at a time of the year that is to be focused on giving thanks and rejoicing in all You are, but we are so often spending our time stressed out beyond belief about family relationships, food being prepared, and whether the house is clean enough or the kids are behaving well enough. We surrender it all to You, as we seek You in Your Word today. Amen.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.
I find myself constantly drawing on the book of Philippians as I go through life, using the lessons it contains to help shape my daily life. I was very excited to know that my blog for today let me meditate on these verses today! And it is so timely for me as we get ready for the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow. Chaos, Stress, and Worry are in the wings just ready to take over my mind and my heart (and I'm probably fooling myself to think they haven't yet, if I'm not stopping to constantly surrender control and receive God's graceful leading).
A few years ago I read "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan and his explanation of this section of verses was very powerful for me. I contemplated giving you simply a synopsis, but Chan is so thorough and to the point in his teaching about stress when we should be rejoicing that I'm going to fully excerpt his section about these verses below. I would love to hear your thoughts and continue the discussion in your comments!
From "Crazy Love" by Frances Chan -- Justified Stress
I used to believe that in this world there are two kinds of people: natural worriers and naturally joyful people. I couldn't really help it that I was the worrying kind. I'm a problem solver, so I have to focus on things that need fixing. God can see that my intensity and anxiety are ministry related. I worry because I take His work seriously.
But then there's that perplexing command: "Rejoice in the Lord Always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4). You'll notice that it doesn't end with "...unless you're doing something extremely important." No, it's a command for all of us, and it follows with the charge, "Do not be anxious about anything" (v. 6).
That came as a pretty staggering realization. But what I realized next was even more staggering.
When I am consumed by my problems - stressed out about my life, my family, and my job -- I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God's command to always rejoice. In other words, that I have a "right" to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities.
Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives.
Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others or our tight grip of control.
Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we've been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won't be lonely, afraid, or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God's strength, our problems are small, indeed.