“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
-From Philippians 4:1-9
Often when I am giving the blessing at the end of the service, I use the one that closely mirrors this text about the peace of God from Philippians. As people of faith, we often seek understanding, and in our tradition, reason is a valued faculty given to us by God to help us grow in our faith. But no matter how much we seek understanding, that is not an endpoint for faith. This has been a difficult lesson for me personally at times, because I LOVE to understand. And yet we all hit times in our journey that we are surrounded by perplexity, fear, uncertainty, and questions that seem well beyond our grasp. Many are experiencing these feelings during such tumultuous times as we’ve been experiencing. We may wish that faith automatically gave us a work around from these challenges, but in my experience, it is much more about giving us the capacity to endure and find joy even in the hard times. Our God promises that all we experience can be redeemed, and we have some ways through our own intentions and practices to open ourselves to a peace that God desires to give us. It is not something that we can easily understand, and in fact sometimes when we strive to understand we are cutting ourselves off from the very grace and abundance that is being offered.
Paul gives us a few suggestions to help us experience that peace which passes all understanding. The first is to start with joy. Give thanks for what is. It can be a simple statement or awareness of gratitude that allows you to start from a place of abundance rather than scarcity. Second, be gentle. These words feel particularly appropriate in this long slog we’ve been in. Few people are at their best and we have to offer gentleness to one another and to ourselves when we fall short. Thirdly, don’t go it alone. Put your life, your fears, your concerns, your joys before the God who created you. If you do those three things and practice them especially on the days you’d rather not, I suspect you get glimpses of God’s peace. It is a gift, which is probably why we can never fully understand it. But the grace of its steadiness and joy can give us hope and guard our world-weary souls.