4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)
I have written about this passage countless times over the years. And, every time I come back to it, the Lord shows me something new – some little nuance or detail that leaps out at me and fills me with joy and gratitude for the Lord.
Tonight it is the word reasonableness that has caught my attention. Paul emphasizes the point that we are to rejoice – be filled with joy at all times, in all situations. This is a reasonable expectation of us, God’s children.
How can joy be reasonable all the time? That’s irrational. Bad things happen. The seas of life get choppy with grief and loss and pain and hardship… How can we smile when all we see is difficulty, all we feel is pain? What is so joyous about feeling hopeless?
Look at the end of verse 5: “The Lord is at hand”. When life seems hard, I struggle at times with my faith. I think, if we were honest, each of us would admit to grappling with Jesus from time-to-time. But, despite how we feel or fail to see, the truth is He is near. He is here. He is beside you. He is within you. He is sovereign over all – including the hard times.
When Paul tells us the Lord is at hand, he’s saying, “Have faith. God is real, God is love, and God is here. So don’t worry about anything – anything!” Trust God. Have patience (another aspect of reasonableness). Let God know your needs. But don’t focus on your needs.
Let me repeat that: don’t focus on your needs. Focus on God. With thanksgiving. With gratitude. Why? Because the Lord is near. Corrie ten Boom noted, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”
The gratitude comes not merely from prayers answered as we like. Our joy should radiate from the peace we experience when we realize the true blessing is the fact that, no matter what, God is at hand. The Lord – the Sovereign of All – is here. That is the reality of our situation. We can rest in our faith in Him because He will never abandon us.
Worry turns our gaze inward. Thankfulness turns our gaze upward. Since the reality of life is that God is with us, and God is for us, then it is only reasonable to be filled with joy. And, in turn, to let others see that grateful, faith-filled joy that shines brighter than our problems. That is how we get people to see us – to see our circumstances and, moreover, see “the peace that passes all understanding” ruling over our hearts and troubles and lives – and say, “I want what he / she has.”