My mind is tired right now, and it’s only 7 in the morning! Thoughts race, (actually, bounce back and forth) as I try to read the Word. My husband and I laugh about the different ways our brains work, but I really do struggle to slow it down and focus on what I’m reading.
Ironically I’m looking at Philippians 4:4-8 today. How many times have I read this passage? I’ve lost count! They are highlighted and the page is crinkled, yet today, when I’m struggling to focus, these words are more important than ever.
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This peace—so amazing to consider that it is beyond our understanding—is so great that it surpasses our ability to comprehend. I feel this peace on my hardest days, when I remember to stop and ask for it!
Today it is the second half of verse 7 that has grabbed my attention, "…will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I am a strong woman but all too often I feel vulnerable. I love it when my husband is home. I feel like my protector is there and there is no sense of danger from the outside world. He’s no Arnold Schwarzenegger but I feel safe with him. It’s a sense of feeling guarded. In a similar, but better way, Paul tells us in verse 7 that this peace of God will guard our hearts and minds, but not our bodies, it seems. This interests me because it suggests that regardless of what happens to our bodily form, whether ill health, pain, accidents or discomfort, we can still have this transcending peace.
I live with chronic pain, a not so nice condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis. This idea that peace is available to me despite what’s happening to my body is good news indeed! Good news just like the gospel! Despite our wretched state, God provides a way to have peace with Him. Things might be really tough and falling apart around us but God has this amazing love and grace for us, and in that, we can find a peace that guards our hearts and our minds.
Over the years I have been so grateful for the peace that only God can give. When others have not agreed with our families fostering journey, His peace has protected my heart from shattering. I have to be honest, there have definitely been times when my heart has felt broken. But when I look closer I see that they are only cracks and it’s God’s peace and love that heals them up. He protects my heart; guards it fiercely as my ultimate Protector.
And my mind, well, that is the biggest battleground of all. I struggle daily to not listen to ‘others’ voices. The ones that tell me I don’t look like I should, the ones that tell me I’m not a good mom, or the one that tells me I will be a physical burden to my family as my disease progresses over the years to come. If you’re anything like me, there are a hundred other voices all fighting to stamp out the joy. The mind is where it begins. How I think affects how I feel, which affects what I do and how I act. It is my mind that needs the greatest protection of all. I know my heart is safe, but the battle rages on in my mind. Verse 8 goes on to tell me what things God is wanting my mind to be focused on.
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…"
Wow, what a list! "If anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." I’m so challenged by this. All too often my flesh loves the opposite - that tidbit of gossip, that show full of drama and immorality. God knew very well what a struggle our minds would be for us as humanity fell into sin. There are many times throughout His Word that He addresses the need to deal with our minds. Romans 12:2 is another favorite of mine. It talks about being transformed by the renewing of your mind. Our minds are complex, intricate, sometimes confusing, and always in need of guarding. We live in a broken world with an enemy that seeks to make us ineffective as witnesses for the Lord, and so often this all begins in the mind.
Each and every day I need my mind to be guarded by the peace of God. But how do I go about receiving this peace? Verse 6 of Philippians 4 is so important here. Bring everything to God! Come before Him with our petitions, our requests, our needs, other’s needs, and flavor it all with thanksgiving! Could it be more simple or straightforward!?
I need to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. It is when I look down that my fears, worries, and problems threaten to overwhelm and consume me—to the point where I feel like I’m sinking. Despair takes over and I wonder how I’ll keep going.
"Jesus, I need your protection of peace over my heart and my mind today."