Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:4–5
Most of us want to be seen as strong and capable. We don’t want to be helpless and needy. We fear vulnerability. Paul’s advice to the Philippians is startling: “Let your gentleness be known to everyone.” He’s telling us that knowing God is near makes it safe to let our guard down. We don’t trust others and often we don’t even trust ourselves. If we’ve made bad choices in the past, we may not trust ourselves to make good choices. If we’ve been hurt, we instinctively protect ourselves from further harm. If our trust has been betrayed, we’re reluctant to trust again. It’s easy, even natural, to fall into these patterns of behavior.
The Scriptures tell us again and again not to be afraid. God’s peace, Paul tells us, will guard our hearts and minds. Rejoicing in the Lord teaches us to see not only the times we have been hurt but also the many times we have been loved and sheltered and cherished. This season’s gentle challenge is to dwell on the good things in our lives, the precious memories, the reminders of God’s gracious love and mercy. It can be tempting to recall only the bad things in our past and to live in fear. But the Incarnation proclaims a return to the essential goodness in creation and in humanity. Being grateful for all that is good in our lives gives us a secure place to stand and a reliable shelter when the storms of life rage around us.
We need to remember, as a dear friend once told me, “Sometimes when the storm rages, God calms the storm. But sometimes God can only calm the child because the storm must continue to rage.” Let yourself be calmed today.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Breathe in peace, breathe out anxiety. Breath in trust, breathe out worry. Ask God for what you need. Thank God for what you need! Let these words run through your mind: “The peace of God surpasses all understanding.”
A SIMPLE GIFT
Our sensory memories play a big part in our moods. Take time to be grateful for the many ways you perceive the world around you—sight, sound, smell, and touch—and the people and places these perceptions evoke. Hang on to those that are most calming and find ways to keep them close.