I have several Bibles that I have used heavily over the years in ministering to hurting people. They all have a few pages that are worn more than others. Places they just fall open to if you open them close to those particular texts. There are passages like the 23rd Psalm, or Psalm 121, or the end of Isaiah 40 that bring great comfort to God’s children so we read them to each other when we are hurting or fearful.
There is a passage in the New Testament that not only offers comfort in stressful days; it also gives clear direction for coping and moving forward when we face fearful things. Philippians 4:4-9 is a passage that every believer in Christ should know well. If you take time to study and learn it, you will find it is repeatedly helpful as you face the trials of life and the anxiety that results from those trials.
There is a logical pattern to be followed if we want to overcome fear and serve Christ well in this broken world. The first thing we must do is expressed in verses four and five. We must rejoice in the Lord, and do so in a way that is evident to others. It is not referring to some made-up fake happiness, but the joy that is evident when we focus on his great love, his great sacrifice on our behalf, and his great gift of salvation. Thinking about him actually changes our demeanor in a way that others can observe.
The second step in this process is to pray. Having found joy in him it is natural that we should talk to him. We give him thanks for who he is and what he has done and then we ask for his help. We articulate what we want. We are in no position to make demands of our creator, but he has asked us to share our requests with him, knowing that he will deal with them appropriately.
Having prayed, we will experience a peace or calmness that only he can give. It is in that peace that we recognize that we are not going to go crazy. We should acknowledge the reality that his peace will guard our thinking and our emotions. We find relief from our inner struggles.
That sense of well-being and confidence should be used as an occasion to consider what around us is good and wonderful and right. We can get so caught up in the conflicts and struggles in life that we stop seeing the goodness that exists as well. Start by finding it in little things and move to bigger ones. This is not simply sticking our head in the sand to escape the evil in the world and in our hearts. It is a means of recognizing that the evil has not and never will overcome the good. Pain, fear, grief, and frustration may cloud our vision but if we look around we will still discover the goodness and beauty of the Lord.
Too often people reach this level and stop. For us to do well in hard days there is one more instruction found in verse nine. Paul uses himself as an example and calls us to follow his lead. He knew pain, suffering and injustice, but he continued to serve his Lord and proclaim the good news of the gospel to the broken world in which he lived. He promises that if we do the same the “God of peace” will be with us. It is only in actively living for Christ that we experience his presence and peace!
Please take some time before this day is over to read through that passage slowly and determine to follow the pattern laid out there. it will strengthen you and enable you to help those who do not yet know the joy of the Lord.