We’ve all been there, right?
We’ve all been in that place where it feels like every person we speak to needs something from us, and we can’t possibly say no to any of them. After all, what kind of person turns someone down who’s in need?
It’s easy when the problems brought to us are broken toys, teeth that have fallen out, or a shortage in the church nursery.
It’s a little harder when the problems are broken relationships, faith that has fallen by the wayside, or a shortage in the family budget that puts groceries on the chopping block.
We don’t just deal with our own issues, either. Not every need that comes our way is about us or our family. When we live in community with others – as anybody with an extended family or a church family does – we are regularly confronted with the hurts, needs, pains, and lapses of others, too. When we care about people, we celebrate when they celebrate, but we also hurt when they hurt. We grieve when they grieve. We pray as we try to find solutions to people’s tangible problems. Then we pray and try to find solutions for the intangible ones, too.
Let’s face it. We’re a problem-solving people.
Men kind of get a bad rap on that one. They get accused of trying to fix our problems when we just want to talk about them. Women do the same thing though. I was teaching a ladies’ class last week, and one of the women expressed a problem she was dealing with. Within seconds, every woman in that room was firing off suggestions, solutions, answers, and advice. Nope. Men are definitely no the only people who go into problem-solving mode when the opportunity arises.
It’s because we care. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t bother trying to solve other people’s problems. Wanting to help people is a good thing.
Sometimes, though, we end up under a mess of problems. We have our own issues. Our family has issues. Our extended family has issues. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have issues, too. And we find ourselves drowning in the middle of it, no longer able to see which way is up or down, let alone forward.
What are we supposed to do when that happens?
The easy answer is Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
In other words, we can brute force our way through whatever we’re facing. That’s how we usually take that verse, right? I can do all things… We get all confused and think that the verse is telling us that we somehow have the ability to do whatever we think needs to be done.
That’s not quite what the verse is saying, though, is it?
If you back up a little bit, you see that we’re told to rejoice in the Lord (v 4) and to recognize that the Lord is at hand (v 5). When we recognize that Christ is with us, of course we’re going to rejoice! Then we’re told not to be anxious and to bring all our requests to God through prayer in thanksgiving (v 6). Rejoice! Have gratitude! Christ is with you! (Sometimes when I’m reminding myself about things, I have to yell loud enough for me to hear. Hence the exclamation marks. 😊) After that – when we’ve got the rejoicing and the gratitude down – and because Christ is with us – “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (v 7). Happy sigh. Our worry and stress and anxiety has a hard time surviving in the midst of God’s peace. Amen to that!
It doesn’t end there, though. Next, we’re told to think about those things that are true (Christ), honorable (Christ), pure (Christ), lovely (Christ), commendable (Christ), and excellent (Christ) (v 8). Then we’re to put into practice all that we’ve learned in Christ – which I take to mean, at a minimum, everything in the preceding verses but also possibly everything in the rest of Scripture (v 9).
From there, Paul goes on to tell us that he rejoiced because of the Philippians concern for him (v 10) and that he has learned to be content no matter the situation (v 11). He has learned how to be content when he has little and when he has much, when he is brought low and when he abounds (v 12). Paul has learned to be content in whatever situation God has him, and that flows out of everything that comes before. He rejoices. He is grateful. The peace of God puts to rest Paul’s anxiety and concerns, allowing him to rest in contentment even when the situation doesn’t seem like it should warrant it.
Then, from that, we get verse thirteen – “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
In this context, what has Christ strengthened Paul for? For peace. For contentment. For resting in the will of the Father even when it’s hard.
In today’s world where we’re so busy and often feel like we’re drowning under all the demands that are placed on us, this isn’t the verse we use as we’re trying to lift a burning car off the train tracks. This is the verse we use to help us find peace in the midst of the raging fire, the train bearing down, and the stray cat who’s determined to trip us in the midst of it all.
Peace. Rest. Contentment.
They’re commodities that can seem to be in really short supply, but they’re commodities that God gives freely to His children who seek Him.
Rejoice! Be grateful! Christ is with you!
And in Him, you can find peace and contentment, no matter the magnitude or number of storms you’re facing.