Written on my steering wheel. Written on my hand. Printed on my mind. Embedded on my heart. For many years I held on to a set of verses from the Bible to help my understand how to think about the uncertain events in my life. I wrote them, taped them, glued them every where my eyes were prone to look. For a few years my life seemed to be mismatched between ambitions and reality… there was an awkward dissonance between what I wanted to pursue in ministry and the ministry that pursued me. So I clung hard to these verses in Philippians chapter 4:4-7—
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
They are not easy verses. They are not verses of simple answer. They are, however, verses of profound perspective. They are a set of verses which establish both courage and humility through every circumstance.
In these words I am reminded that God is near (both in time and space). Because of that I can relax a bit… breathe out… take a moment of calm. Because of that I can rejoice. Always. Again. Always. Because of that I can be gentle. Even in the midst of uncertainty or chaos or calamity. And because of that I can pray. In every situation pray.
This is not cheap. Nor is this cheesy. This is championship living. Somehow, even in events and worries that cause anxiety, I can replace my finger-biting and teeth-grinding with the expression of thankfulness. But I know this isn't a turn-your-brain-off sort of thanksgiving. This is real, raw, passionate gratitude in the midst of crappy life.
With thanksgiving… in every situation… by PRAYER AND PETITION… we present our REQUESTS to God. This verse does not command us to suck it up and accept our fate. This verse does not instruct us to water-it-down and approach life as an ignorant simpleton. This verse urges us to fight, and fight hard, in everything with knee-scarring intensity. But in and through the fight, we remember the blessed foundation of all that we have thanksgiving for… A God to whom we can cry and plea.
A petition is a ground-swell of demand for change. We are given permission to petition God for what we think is right. But in our indignant passion we do it with an expression of thankfulness. A request is an earnest cry for something that we feel we need or desperately desire. We are given permission to make requests to God. But in our yearning is a base of thanksgiving.
Today I express my thankfulness to a Savior who loves me, who loves my family, and who loves the people of this world. Today I ask for bread and forgiveness… even as I give bread and forgiveness to others. Today I plead for God's will to be known on this earth— so that earth could resemble the beauty of life in heaven. And today I petition that evil and sick temptations in our world, in my life, would cease— so that God's name would be praised as holy and good. Thank you, dear Lord, for your profound love. May I breathe deep in thankfulness today.
(Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAVE!!!)