From Philippians To Furlough: A Meditation On Philippians 4
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice” Phil. 4:4
From Today’s English Version (TEV): “May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord…” What is it that brings joy and rejoicing to my heart? Is it being reunited with my family? Is it going back to my homeland? Those things will bring many smiles and much joy, but if I expect them to bring me happiness throughout my time in the U.S., I’ll be sorely disappointed. God never intended it to be that way. He didn’t create life on earth to satisfy us and delight our hearts. He reserved that role for Himself.
“Remind me, Lord, to guard my time with you. Don’t let me put unrealistic expectations on those at home or experiences that I long to enjoy. You are the giver of joy. Set my eyes on You so that I don’t sink into despair when disappointments come.”
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7
I know that I tend to worry. I get so stressed when my children are sick. Or my husband, or me, or my parents, or….
What does the word “transcends” mean? The TEV says, “which is far beyond.” In other words, I don’t even need to try to understand it! But it’s still real, just the same. I remember when my sister was hospitalized several years ago and I was pushed to physical and mental exhaustion. Eventually, it came. The peace. I had to lean on God – my own resources were used up. I don’t understand exactly how it got there, but I do know that when I was at the end of my rope, God’s peace swooshed in!
When I go home, there will be times of worry. Maybe it will be a doctor report, maybe conflict among family or friends. Satan loves to play havoc with my mind. He’ll try to make me think that worrying will help. But the truth is, it won’t. I’m so glad to know that because I am “in Christ Jesus” my heart and mind are guarded.
“Thank you, Lord, that you are so great that you are incomprehensible by our human minds. If we could understand all of who you are, you would seem “like one of us.” You’re so far beyond that! Help me to stand firm in You when the enemy plants lies in my heart. Envelop me in Your peace. I long to be a woman with a peaceful heart, not a worrying heart. Change me as only you can.”
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” Phil. 4:12
There is so much that I’ve seen here – poverty that turns my stomach and wealth that does the same. How will I respond when I go home? Will the materialism repulse me? Or will I enjoy basking in those “things” that I haven’t had for the past three years? We do live comfortably here. Compared to many here, we are wealthy. But in the U.S., we won’t be. I’m anxious about that. Paul had it figured out. He was content with much or with little. It’s again an issue of the heart, not the circumstances.
“What was Paul’s secret, Lord?” Having much makes me lazy and take things for granted. Being needy makes me covet and complain. I so long for maturity! Set my eyes on you and help me to be thankful for what you give, whether much or little. Keep my head above my circumstances so that I don’t drown in self-pity or focus on my wants. Teach me true contentment.”
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19
What kind of riches is this? Is it our financial needs as it was for Paul? Indeed, He will do that. But what about other needs? I need sensitivity and discernment in helping our 7 year old son adjust. I can’t know how much this trip home will “rock his boat.” How can I help him?
I need relationships. To try to pick up where I left off, I need humility and abandonment of my “position” as a global worker. Some will put us on a pedestal. I need my friends and family to see me as approachable and “normal” That’s largely up to me and how I project myself.
I need quality time with my husband. These have been three stressful years. We’ve grown as we have faced struggles together. At the same time, it has stretched us and we need time to just relax and enjoy each other.
So, do these and other needs just float out there in hopes of getting met? Are they really needs, or just desires? I believe they are needs. How will they be met? “…according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Not just half-way, but richly!
“Who am I, Lord, to be worthy of your glorious riches to be poured down upon me? I admit that I often don’t feel worthy because I’ve failed so often. Thank you for your grace. I don’t need to win your favor – you just give it out. Help me to not expect You to meet my needs in the way that I want you to. May my thoughts be saturated with the truth of You being in the driver’s seat, not me. Only then will I have true peace – the kind that ‘transcends all understanding‘”