Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise – dwell on these things. Philippians 4:6-10 HCSB
The tears streamed down my face, smearing my makeup. It was embarrassing. I was on an airplane, for goodness sakes, and people were staring. I wanted to look nice when I stepped into the terminal, and those chances were shot, too. I’d be arriving with a red nose and runny mascara.
What had happened to evoke this unwanted and unstoppable display of emotions? During the flight, I’d read a sad, sad novel – about imaginary people facing a fictional situation. The despair welled up in my soul … but, nothing bad had actually happened to me or to anyone else.
Ever watched a horror movie and felt terrified in a perfectly safe, locked house located in a pleasant, low-crime neighborhood? Yeah, me too.
My point is this: emotions follow thoughts. Think about a sad story: feel sad. Think about a scary movie: feel scared. Wherever my brain is, there my heart will go. That is why Paul commanded us here to think about true, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, praise-worthy things. And he said it in the context of God giving us peace – that blessed, restful assurance that God is in control.
This is a beautiful Biblical promise: If I pray with thanksgiving, God will give me peace that surpasses understanding, peace that doesn’t depend on my circumstances. The key there is the thanksgiving part. Sometimes, the things I am praying about are so grim that there is nothing in those situations for which to be thankful. But I can always thank God for his character, for his ability to intervene, for his power and goodness. I can always thank God for blessings he’s given – past and present. And as my mind travels to those pleasant truths, peace descends.
On the other hand, if I pray and then choose to dwell on the impossibility of my dilemma, if I choose to lay awake worrying or making up scenarios as to how to solve the problem or how it could get even worse … I’m not going to have peace. I’m going to have emotional trauma. Who would choose that over peace? Unfortunately, me … more times than I’d like to admit.
Today, may I dwell on the truth that Christ will never leave me, that he is working all things together for good in my life because I love Him. May I spend lots of time pondering the honorable, commendable traits in the people around me and the situations that challenge me. May I think about the things my children do that deserve praise instead of punishment. Bring on the peace, God. I’m ready.