How many times have I read Philippians 4:6-7? Hundreds? Certainly. Thousands? Maybe. Yet a few weeks ago in our Sunday liturgy, we said those verses as a congregation, and I heard something entirely new.
Wind back to November of last year. It had been a terrific few months at Viewzi. However, we hit the wall on our fundraising with the downturn in October, and by November payroll was, well, not. We all kept working at it, and the company has continued to have some success by shifting focus to more immediate, revenue-driving projects. However, the new approach really wasn’t a fit for my contribution. I’ve continued to office with the guys and collaborate on some opportunities, but by the time I heard the Philippians passage that Sunday in late March, I had been over 4 months without a paycheck.
February was the low point for me. Interestingly, our church’s service also played a key role then as well. We sang that wonderful rendition of Psalm 130, and I sang it quietly to myself each day for weeks as I learned to patiently wait on the Lord. Now in March I was doing pretty well in terms of my outlook. I’d even started a couple ventures that were starting to generate revenue. And we said Philippians 4:6-7 in the liturgy, and it was like I heard it for the first time.
What had I always heard before? That God’s peace goes beyond anything we can make sense of. We experience his peace in circumstances that should not lead to peace. And I think this is exactly what the verses state, yet I’m now convinced there is even more.
What causes worry? When do we wallow in worry instead of experiencing peace? I’d suggest the Bible’s admonitions exactly match our experience. In Matthew 6, Jesus asks us if we can add one moment to our life by worrying. We are told not to worry for food, clothing, or shelter, that God knows our needs. That we should think about today, and not fret about tomorrow.
There it is. We worry about the future. And Tricia and I, as we went months without income, worried. Tricia summed it up so well one evening when she told me, “If you told me we’d be in this situation for another 6 months, and then it would end, I’d be okay.” The situation wasn’t the only stress, it was our fears for the unknown future that were killing us. Not knowing was at the heart of the worry.
We worry because we do not know the future. We may mourn for what we do know or experience, we may experience real hardship, but we worry because of what we do not know. As we read Philippians 4:6-7 in church, I suddenly heard it this way, “and the peace of God, which is of more value than knowing”. We don’t know the future. But God does. And his peace, which he brings us, is of far more value than us knowing, even knowing the future.
What is the antidote to our worries? From this point of view, Philippians 4:6-7 and Matthew 6 offer similar answers. We need to know that God knows our needs, and then we need to seek first his kingdom. And we need to believe that God’s care, God’s knowing, is far better than our knowing.