This past summer, I spent time up in Michigan doing a missions trip, doing an after school program for a high school in the Southeast part of Detroit (I taught computer programming! Basic web stuff :P). During that time, I was challenged a lot in my faith, facing faith-crises and working through many insecurities that God revealed in my life.
One of the biggest insecurities God revealed was my desire for control over things in my life.
Not intending for it to happen, I developed a lot of stress and anxiety over many things — health, future, death — to name a few. I was trying to wrestle for control over the uncontrollable. Fortunately, I was able to experience peace and joy amidst those trials through God’s Grace.
Coming back from missions, though, I’ve found it hard not to fall back onto anxiety — To go through a day where my mind is at peace and not in auto-worry mode.
That’s why I’m going to share this passage in Philippians I found that brings a lot of truth for me that I want to remind myself (and hopefully will enlighten or remind whoever you are that reads this.)
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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."
- Phil 4:10–13 ESV
From my interpretation (this may be all subjective), I find there is a lot of comfort and peace to be pulled from these verses as well as the context that the apostle Paul has written in. (Also, there are many verses that I will bring up in connection to what I interpret from the Philippians verse). So sit back, relax, and enjoy the logical read!
NOTE: Interpreting Scripture is dangerous if you don’t take note of context first.
For context, Paul is writing to the people of Philippi in Greece, who Paul and Timothy visited during his second missionary journey. In these verses, Paul is praising God for the people of Philippi’s concern over him, though the Philippians didn’t initially have an opportunity to act on their concern for Paul.
Later on (in Philippians 4:14–20), Paul talks about how the Philippians later seized opportunities to send gifts to him — in Thessalonica. And Paul shares how he is encouraged by the continued partnership both parties (Paul and the Philippians) have even after being separated.
Paul is blessed to receive, even though he is not seeking, because he witnesses the harvest of good fruit the Philippians bear when they gift to Paul and continue the partnership. Through it, he sees the step of faith the Philippians make towards God, and Paul encourages them saying that this faith means that God will work powerful mighty things for them.
"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen."
- Phil 4:19–20 ESV
Anyways, for me, the verses that really hit me was Phil 4:11–13.
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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." - Phil 4:11–13 ESV
This is fascinating for me! Paul is able to be content in every situation. Finding contentment in even my anxiety... That is an absurd statement I cannot imagine. In those moments, it’s rough because I feel a sense of absence from God — The Lord of Heaven and Earth is not with me. How can I be content in those situations? The truth is, the absence of God is painful.
In the absence of God, I am surrounded by clouds of uncertainty. I cannot see what the next hour, next minute, let alone next second will bring. Nothing can bring me to eternal certainty of peace during those times — Not food, money, clothing, interactions with others, loud music, etc... — All these things bring only a momentary distraction of contentment in the gaping hole that rests in my soul.
By looking more carefully into these verses, I recognize how Paul was able to stay content in every situation. Paul does not put his foundation in the temporary or in the things of this Earth. Instead, Paul puts his firm foundation “In any and every circumstance... [through] him who strengthens [him]...” (v. 12–13).
In other words, Paul has faith that God is in control of any and every circumstance, and has the ability to strengthen him.
This brings a lot of joy for me, even in the midst of anxiety and turmoil. It reminds me 2 things. The first is God’s sovereignty — How I am not required to know everything, since God already knows it all?
In fact, God’s sovereignty provides peace, and I no longer need to believe I need to be in control of everything. It opens up an opportunity to have faith in Him, whether big or small. Similar to how a young child has faith in his father who plans out a trip for the family — since the child does not and cannot know everything in order to plan for a trip. The only difference between the symbolic trip that the earthly father and heavenly Father plans out is that the heavenly Father plans out a trip for the rest of our life, and even beyond.
Even more so, the second thing I’m reminded of is the covenant that God promised us when He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross. Through shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus provided not only freedom from sin, but also from anxiety, doubt, shame, guilt — The promise of a new heaven and a new earth. In this new heaven/earth, there will no longer be any suffering.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth... He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
- Rev 21:1–4 ESV
Man, isn’t that amazing? Honestly, currently the world is corrupt right now, so I can’t imagine it. But to think for a moment that there will be a time that no more mourning, crying or pain will happen. That is such a joyful thing to consider, and it brings so much hope. It is a wonderful reminder that our present sufferings are nothing compared to the greater glory that will be revealed.
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
- Rom 8:18–19 ESV
This greater glory is something we can put our hope in. But not only does this hope extend into the future, but also is present the present. Now, everyday, instead of living life for the things of the world, we live life for the things of heaven. We now see everything we do not in a temporary perspective, but in an eternal perspective.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
- Matt 6:19-21 ESV
(Romans 8:24 verse below is a reminder of what hope is)
_"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?"
- Romans 8:24 ESV
Anyways, I guess what I’m trying to say throughout this blog post (through a lot of rambling and verse hopping), is that there is joy in God each day. Even when anxiety is prevalent in my life daily (even now ._.), as I continuously remind myself of who God is and what He has done for me, I can find hope even amidst that suffering. And with it, I can find strength to live out each day — not out of myself, but only through Him.
Hope you guys were encouraged by this post! And if not, feel free to let me know :P I love feedback (constructive is nice). Have a great Friday (or whatever day you read this), and hope you continue to live out your faith (or life) more challenged but hopeful in the promises and truths that God has for us. Love you guys :) (platonically lol)
“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
- Rom 10:9 ESV