Wednesday in Holy Week
And so I am tempted to be skeptical of Paul’s words, as heartening and gorgeous as this whole passage may be: “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything.”
Are you kidding, Paul? Do not worry!? There is so much potential for disaster all around us. Loved ones die, relationships shatter, cells multiply too quickly, planes crash, jobs disappear, our kids struggle, nations wage war and we are lonely, frustrated, hurt, petty, ashamed, and afraid. We are safe from none of it: the bad things happen to us, sooner or later. Inevitable.
And Paul doesn’t deny it; he knows better than that. He makes no promise that Jesus will keep the bad things from happening to us, or to him for that matter: Paul writes this letter, after all, from prison; his own earthly life will end in martyrdom. He also doesn’t try to justify the bad things, or explain them away; doesn’t try to turn our trials into God’s test of our faith, doesn’t try to make it God’s punishment or placate us with “everything happens for a reason.”
Instead he tells the church at Philippi to come before the living God, to remember with whom they—with whom we—dwell: the God who does not erase the bad things, but who remains with us in their midst. So pray, lament, complain, give thanks, cry out with joy and with demand! We are safe not from heartache or trauma. We are safe only in that we dwell in the one who remained with God even in the midst of the worst humanity could throw at him; we’re hearing that story this week. We are hearing the story of the one who bore the worst things and showed us that they are never last word. When we center ourselves in that story—in the life Christ gives us, the strength with which he nourishes us—we find a peace that surpasses understanding. Perhaps the better way to say it is, we are given a peace that doesn’t make any objective or rational kind of sense: a peace that seems counter to all our understanding.
May God’s peace—may the God of peace—be with you this week and always.