by Rev. Jerry Kieschnick
We are living in a time of anxiety, conflict, and concern. People are anxious today about employment and job stability; about the price of gas, other fuels, and food; and about the future leadership of our country.
Armed conflict continues in Iraq as news reports implicate Iran in the equipping and training of militias there. There is conflict in our own country over the war and such other issues as immigration reform. We see conflict among and within political parties, in some of our congregations, and even in our families.
People are concerned and worried.
It’s easy at times like this to lose our focus on why we are here. Thoughts become fixed on the matters that face us in life. Our focus can become centered on ourselves rather than on God and why He created us and has blessed us so richly.
The apostle Paul understood this human proclivity for worry and anxiety. He had pastoral counsel for those who are anxious. He wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:4–7).
Paul’s counsel to the Philippians was to focus on the Lord rather than on themselves.
Some may think that this is easy for Paul to say. He didn’t face the same issues or conflict or troubles we face today. The truth is, though, that Paul knew trouble. He wrote to the Corinthians that he had been imprisoned, beaten severely, and exposed to death repeatedly.
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one,” he wrote. “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers” (2 Cor. 11:24–26).
Paul was no stranger to conflict and danger. Still, he says to rejoice! The Lord is near! In a spirit of thanksgiving, he counsels, go to Him in prayer with your requests.
This would be my pastoral counsel as well. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
This is the God who knows everything. Not even a little bird falls to the ground without His knowledge. He knows what worries us, what troubles we face, and what concerns are on our minds. He knows, and He cares. He cares so much that He sent His Son to the cross to forgive us our sins and to assure us of life in all its fullness.
He cares for you!
I leave you with this thought, in the words of St. Paul: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The second stanza of a favorite hymn, “Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me” (LSB 722), says it nicely:
Lord, when the tempest rages, I need not fear,
For You, the Rock of Ages, are always near.
Close by Your side abiding, I fear no foe,
For when Your hand is guiding, in peace I go.