Philippians 4: 4-7 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 it amazing when I read a passage that I’ve read many times before and God faithfully reveals something new and powerfully relevant. This passage is probably quite familiar to many. I believe there was even a song made up almost entirely of the first sentence in verse 4. Yet today, it feels unbelievably comforting to read.
This has been a difficult weekend. I’ve found it so painful to try to process the elementary school shooting. My heart breaks for the families involved and for the children who were killed. It’s hard to find the strength to “rejoice.” I certainly don’t feel like it.
But verse 5 gripped me. “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Gentleness.
As Paul sat in prison and wrote this brief 4 page letter to the church in Philippi, his advice to these young Christians was to be gentle with each other. That was to be their witness….and their reward was peace.
As a father, it’s easy for me to identify with (in some small way) the terror and pain that the families of the slain children must feel today. If I sat across from them I would have no answers, no explanations. There are no magic words that would make the situation more bearable. I imagine that if it were me, the only thing I would want would be to bury my face in the chest of my Heavenly Father, wrap my arms around him….desperately hanging on….and be met with gentleness as I cried. I would cry for understanding, repeatedly asking “why, why…?” but my soul would long for peace.
At times like this it can feel like God is so far away. Does He see what is happening? Does He care? Can He relate?
And then I pick my head up and everywhere I turn I see a manger. I remember how God sent His own child to be born in a prickly, dirty food trough…to hide as the government executed babies in an attempt to squelch out His message before it was ever given. To live a perfect life, only to be tortured and crucified in the most unjust manner.
Yes, He understands. And despite our sin, He loves us gently…patiently.
For that we can rejoice.