And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:7
No matter how many trials or turns happen in life, there’s this amazing thing God provided for us: His peace.
It’s unlike what the world offers, and it’s beyond what our mind can comprehend and emotions can feel. It’s supernatural and available for us to embrace as we journey through life.
It’s tempting to argue that God’s peace is even real, though, because so many people live in anxiety, depression, fear, and worry. But once we experience it, there’s no wanting to go back, and we crave it more and more. We don’t crave God’s peace like we do with snacks, because those cravings are fleeting. We crave God’s peace because that’s the life He intended for us to have.
However, we sometimes have a hard time embracing God’s peace.
Regardless of our circumstances, I believe we can experience God’s peace that surpasses all understanding. Not only does it provide a sense of stability, but there’s a guarding of our hearts and minds that take place in Jesus. Just like Paul wrote to the Philippians during his biggest trial, we, too, can grab hold of this peace and embrace it for ourselves and every part of life.
I want to share five ways to embrace God’s peace. This isn’t how to “get it,” per se, but how to embrace it. It’s already available for us, but so many of us don’t want to reach out and grasp it. In the rest of this post, we’ll look at the three verses before Philippians 4:7 and talk about the five helpful ways to embrace God’s peace.
1. Stop the pity-party and rejoice
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Most of us wouldn’t care to admit that we throw pity parties often, and many of us give in to complaining about the smallest things with the rest of society: how the day is going, the weather, and even what day of the week it is. In order to stop the pity party, we have to go against the grain. We must swim against the current when mainstream culture tells us to give in. It sounds good in theory, but there are actually practical ways to do this, and the first way is to stop the pity-party and rejoice.
Apostle Paul, of all people, encouraged us to rejoice. We don’t always take his words seriously. We still wallow in pity. We tell ourselves and each other too often that “it’s okay to not be okay.” That’s helpful for merely a moment, but it needs to spur us on to change. We cannot stay in our “not okay” place, because God intends for us to live a fulfilling life. The kingdom is at hand and we don’t have time to wallow in our emotions!
When the Israelites left Egypt and wandered in the desert, they complained and fell into pity parties. What should’ve taken a few weeks to go through turned into forty years of circling in the desert. They couldn’t let go of their pity party because, along with everything else they brought from Egypt, they brought their complaining, too. They couldn’t stop the cycle because they wouldn’t rejoice in the Lord.
Rejoicing means to feel or show great joy or delight. If we can express our complaints and feel great pity for ourselves, we can cause ourselves to feel or show great joy and delight in the Lord. This isn’t fake positivity, but a way to direct your thoughts, emotions, and your will to focus on God and the life He’s given you. To set your mind on things above! (Colossians 3:2).
Throughout Psalms, we see David talking to his soul and directing himself to look at God, to focus on God and His goodness, and to exult Him whether he felt it. That’s why he writes, “delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4). There is joy in His salvation and in our new life in Christ! Let’s live like it! Let’s rejoice in it!
2. Stop the pride and practice humility
5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
We all have pride, and again, we wouldn’t care to admit it. But when we repent of it, the fruit of the Spirit becomes evident in our behavior and character. Pride is one of those things we need to check our hearts in constantly. The book of Proverbs talks about pride and its link to the heart, and how to kick it out of our system. The antidote to pride is humility, and not just the word itself, but humility as a verb. We must practice humility when pride sneaks in.
Recently, I had a situation where pride crept into my heart. I didn’t recognize the pride until my husband pointed it out. I explained to him a conversation I had with a relative, and what my reaction was when I heard their response to my “expressed gratitude.” I became upset with how they responded to my said-gratitude. My husband then asked, what was your goal in expressing thanks to them if you got upset?
This helped me stop my pride, repent, and practice humility in that moment. So often, Christians like myself will do and say things that make them feel better about themselves and feed their pride. Instead of practicing humility, and letting their gentleness be made known to everyone, they will do what looks or sounds right, but not necessarily what is right. The gentleness Paul talks about can get translated to self-control, purity, mildness, patience, yieldingness, moderation, and unwillingness to contend [with the things of the flesh, I would add to that last part].
To let our gentleness be known to everyone means continuously become more like Christ (from the inside out). Humility gets exhausting when we try it on our own strength, in our flesh. That’s when it gets fake and selfish. It comes supernaturally when we submit ourselves to God and know He is at hand. This means we live with the awareness of Christ’s return and trust in Him to empower us to become more like Him in the meantime.
3. Stop for a moment and consider everything
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything…
Our information consumption shapes the way we view the world. Everything we take in affects us. When we stop for a moment and consider everything that is coming at us, in us, and through us, we can decipher where our fear, anxiety, depression, etc. comes from! We must filter out the things of the world and consider the things of the Lord more.
Sometimes, we need to put it everything on the shelf and spend time with the Lord. We need to “fast” from the things that could easily weigh us down, decrease our hope, and distract us from what’s important. The things of the world are never beneficial if it means we still suffer with anxiousness. When we stop for a moment and consider everything with the Lord, we can embrace His peace more easily.
Paul starts this verse by saying, do NOT be anxious about anything. I don’t want to be insensitive to those who truly struggle with anxiety. But what if, what if, the reason we’re struggling is a secret desire to stay there? What if Paul’s words are as simple as that, “do NOT be anxious…”? If we want to embrace God’s peace, we need to challenge ourselves to stop for a moment and consider everything that is affecting us. The world will keep affecting us if we let it.
Stopping for a moment and considering everything will make it easier to obey Paul’s words to not be anxious about anything. But we can’t do it apart from step number four.
4. Stop and pray
6bby prayer and supplication
We must stop and pray.
James 5:16 says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Meaning, it works.
Just like I can’t go a day without talking to my husband, I can’t go a day without talking to God. It’s not about being hyper-spiritual or overly religious, but about pursuing a relationship with God where we can stop and pray (or talk to Him) at any given moment. Prayer is our way of communicating with Him. He gives us direction and guidance for life and rejoices with us. He helps us practice humility, and stops with us to consider everything, too.
This step goes hand-in-hand with step three, but on its own, it is also a way for us to embrace God’s peace in our life continuously. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped and prayed and immediately experienced His peace that surpasses all understanding and guards my heart and mind. This isn’t always the case, but it’s happened before, so why would I not continue doing it?
In the gospels, we see how Jesus often left the crowds and disciples to go be with His Father. He stopped and prayed, because I bet, He needed some of that peace. Even though He was fully God and fully man, He still lived in the flesh and needed to take prayer and supplication before God. He did it to the cross, and it was well worth it.
Stopping and praying helps us embrace God’s peace, which is already available.
5. Stop and give thanks
6cwith thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
Step five is to stop and give thanks.
Before Paul talks about God’s peace, he encourages us to tell our requests to God with thanksgiving. This is ultimately what helps us embrace God’s peace. Gratitude. It’s not about earning, getting, or winning His peace, but embracing it because God is good.
Remember the story I shared earlier about my pride impeding my thanksgiving? In a similar way, we often approach thanking God in light of our requests. As I write this, I picture a child saying thanks out of obligation versus a child being thankful from the heart. The latter doesn’t express many words of gratitude, but there’s a contentedness about them. They’re at peace. Whereas obligated gratitude has many words and practiced phrases.
When we genuinely stop and give thanks from our hearts, we can embrace God’s peace more easily. Our focus shifts from anxiety and the things of this world to the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Embrace God’s Peace Continually
Jesus invites us to take up His yoke, for it is easy (Matthew 11:30).
We can keep our eyes on Him and remain in His perfect peace (Isaiah 27:3).
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