“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:7 (ESV)
In the year 2020, it is almost a cliché to say that we are living in troubled times. This year has been a remarkable year of challenges, trials, and transitions. In the midst of all that the world has experienced, many hearts and minds are burdened and heavy with all that has taken place. My own heart has been no exception. It feels like we journey through each day wondering “what’s next” and waiting for the next overwhelming challenge or threat around the corner. Its easy to become discouraged and for our thoughts to grow dark in the midst of such troubled times.
However, the Lord provides encouragement to guide us through times exactly like this. As the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:7, he exhorts the church with the glorious and wonderfully encouraging truth of this verse. Paul begins by focusing on the “peace of God.” Peace is translated from the Greek word “eirēnē” and means to be bound, joined, and woven together (Goodrich & Lukaszewski, 2015). This meaning is significant, as we often think of peace as the absence of turmoil. While that is true, the peace which Paul is referring to goes deeper than simply the absence of turbulence – it is the concept of a confident assurance of God’s love. Further, this confident assurance is more than just head knowledge; it is a forming, shaping, and securing force over our hearts and minds. What is equally remarkable is that Paul wrote this letter during what was likely his own Roman imprisonment. The Apostle Paul was a man who knew tremendous challenges, but also a man who knew the sustaining power and profound comfort and security to be found in the presence of God.
It seems almost counterintuitive that a man sitting in a Roman prison with no assurance of even his next meal, let alone his next day, could write of a confident assurance of God’s love. This perplexing reality is exactly what Paul alluded to when he continued on to say in the same sentence, “which surpasses all understanding.” God has the ability to bring strength and comfort to our hearts in ways that we can barely fathom. In the midst of chaos and madness, in the midst of death and destruction, in the midst of confusion and uncertainty – there is the ever-present, never-ending, ever-sustaining peace of God!
Further, Paul advises the church at Philippi that this peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We recognize that, in life, we face a battlefield of the mind. The misery and anguish so many in our world are experiencing can easily overwhelm both our hearts and our minds. Paul doesn’t tell us to ignore the suffering of others; rather, he advises us to understand the suffering, challenges, trials, and difficulties of life in light of God’s saving and redeeming power, as well as God’s miraculous ability to sustain and encourage our hearts and minds. The word “guard” is the English translation of the Greek word, “phrourēsei,” which is a military term that means to garrison, guard, and protect (Goodrich & Lukaszewski, 2015). Paul tells us that the peace of God will guard – that is, secure, protect, and shield, like a mighty, impenetrable fort – our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
As you read this, do you recognize that your heart and mind are overwhelmed by your circumstances and your situation? Do you find yourself weary, discouraged, and downhearted? Then, dear friend, let me encourage you to turn your focus to the peace of God. Trust Him to guide you through the circumstances and challenges that you face. We may fail to understand and comprehend our circumstances. We may fail to know and recognize what to do about them or why they exist as they do. But God does not fail to understand any of that. God has a plan – through every challenge and every trial of life. God has a plan through the good times and the bad. And what God asks of us is that we simply place our trust in Him and in His perfect plan. He does not ask us to understand it completely; understanding will come in time. What He does ask is that we trust Him and that He knows and understands everything. As we do this, the truth of this verse will be made manifest in each of our hearts and lives. Today, may the Lord encourage your heart, strengthen your mind, bolster your faith, and shape your life in light of this glorious and wonderful promise. Amen.
Goodrich, R. J, & Lukaszewski, A. L. (2015). A Reader’s Greek New Testament: Third Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.