The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:5-6
Here’s what I love about the Bible. It was written in the midst of the blood, sweat, and tears of real life. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write these words of encouragement to this church plant in this Greek city of Philippi. . . while he was in jail.
Sometimes people have hard questions about the Bible, questions about its composition and its consistency. Who actually wrote it? How do we know it’s true? What about the parts that don’t seem to fit together? Nothing wrong with good questions. God can handle them all, even if we can’t always handle the answers. Sometimes the Bible is really messy, and that bothers people.
I am actually encouraged to know that God spoke through real people in real places with real problems. He inspired them to write in their own language. That makes it hard for us, every once in a while, today. We have to work a bit to get back to what God had in mind for the particular mess that he was trying to address at the time. Sometimes, today, we’d rather point out somebody else’s mess that work on our own—but that’s another topic.
We’re in a mess right now, my friends, and not everyone’s mess is the same. For some it’s physical. For others it’s financial. For others it’s the worry and anxiety that go with the first two. For one of my friends the mess is simply trying to figure out how to keep the kids busy enough to get some work done from her new bathroom office. No one knows how nasty the mess will get. And that’s a big part of the problem. What does the mess look like for you?
Paul tells us not to be anxious about anything. Anyone else wrestle with the anything part of that one? Anyone else want to say to Paul, “Have you seen my mess?”
This is what helps me. Think of it this way. When I start with the what—what God is telling me to do or not do—I kick into performance mode. The pressure is on me: just try harder to not be anxious about being anxious! It’s kind of like the vicious cycle of pride that I talked about yesterday. It always puts the focus and the weight back on me, and I forget the four words that come before the command: “The Lord is near.”
What does that mean?
When I start with the who, when I understand that the God of the universe is near, not far. When I know that he is with me in the mess, then I can begin to let him carry the weight of my worry.
That’s what prayer is all about, my friends.
Lord, thank you for being near to me. Thank you for meeting me in the middle of my mess.