“Do not be anxious 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 4:6-7
Peace. We all say we want it, but it seems like so few have it. Maybe you’ve recently heard somebody say, “Please pray for peace,” or, “I just want peace in this situation.” You may have recently nicely (of course) requested from your kids, “Could you just give me some peace?” We all long for peace.
At church we’ve hear or pastor talk about peace. I started this blog with a passage from Philippians that speaks about a “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” Sign me up for that! What a beautiful thing it must be to have this kind of peace. Have you found it yet?
A lot of us ask the question, “How in the world can we find peace at a time like this?” All the political battles, the mass shootings, illegal drugs being legalized, suicide rates on the rise, and so many other things—peace, sounds nice, but not going to happen, right?
And yet, Paul says in Philippians we can have peace through God, despite everything that is going on around us. Thanks, Paul, but aren’t you asking a little much here? It can feel like that, but I believe Paul is asking us all to find peace amidst the chaos of life, and it all has to do with our approach to life.
I believe Paul is showing us how to have peace in a chaotic world, and below are three steps for finding more peace in life.
First, understand peace is not a destination, it’s a state of mind.
It’s important to remember the context in which the Bible was written. Christians were not liked, and, in fact, often persecuted in brutal ways. If it wasn’t happening to you, you more than likely knew someone that experienced it. This was not a peaceful time for Christians where their biggest concern was what to have for dinner. They were facing major difficulties.
All of this to say that peace was not something they were going to find in their outside world. Paul is teaching Christians that it is not their external conditions that need to change, but their internal condition. The solution from Paul was to develop a peaceful state of mind amidst all the chaos and fear. Focus on God more than you focus on your troubles and you will feel more peace.
Second, commit to the practices that lead to peace.
We must practice peaceful habit to feel peace more of the time. Paul, in this passage, gives steps on what to do in order to feel more peace: prayer, supplication, making your requests know to God. And further, in Philippians 4:8-9 Paul writes, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” In essence, Paul tells us that when we change our thoughts and our focus, we get more peace.
This is not positive thinking or pretending things are good when they aren’t. That would be foolish. What Paul wants you to do is deliberately choose what you think about and focus on. When you take control of your thoughts, you can feel more peace.
Also, committing to the practice does not mean you give it a couple of days, and then when you don’t have a “peace that transcends all understanding,” you just give up. It takes days and days of practice to change the way you think, but as Paul shows, it’s worth it.
Third, continue to give up control to God.
The final step is to live in the peaceful state as much as possible. This calls for a state of trust in God, especially when our expectations of how the world or my partner or my kids should act are not met.This level of trust in God asks us to continually admit and accept that God is in control and we are not. The way to peace is not to take all control and make everything happen the way we want—that leads to destruction and stress and death. The way to peace is trusting in God’s faithfulness and practicing faith and trust in him. It’s not easy, and it’s not a quick fix—two things we love in our American culture—but it is the way to peace. I’ll sum it up with the words of Paul in Philippians 4:12-13:
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Is Christian counseling in Edmond or Oklahoma City your next step to breaking free of fears and finding peace? If so, you can reach us at (405) 921-7776.
By Ben Thompson, LMFT