Have you ever had someone in your life that you loved, BUT you just didn't feel like you could quite jive with them? You really genuinely wanted to get along and live peaceably with them, but there were just these certain things about them, these certain little (or maybe even big) annoyances that just about drove you up a wall, or maybe even began to BUILD a wall between the two of you. . .
You tried everything, hoping you could change them. You prayed. You tried talking to them (lots of times) until you were just about blue in the face, and then you even brought somebody else to talk with both of you to see if that would help. You cried and yelled and screamed. You dropped little, or maybe big, hints to them when it would happen again. You complained, and then you nagged. You tried being totally silent about it, and not bringing it up at all, but it only escalated and got worse. (Of course, they could still tell you were totally annoyed with them from your body language and the faces you made.)
You felt like you were ready to pull your hair out. And for sure, you were obsessed with the whole thing and it invaded most of your waking thoughts. You felt like you were at the end of your rope and just wanted to give up. But how could you do something as drastic as giving up? How would that look? What would other people think, because after all, you were supposed to be a Christian, right? All you knew was that your life was a total mess because of this person, or at least that is what you were thinking. What in the world were you going to do? (Or maybe you are even thinking right now, “what do you mean ‘were’; it's what AM I going to do???”)
Philippians 4:4-9 gives us a good strategy to use if we are stuck in this kind of situation, or have some other problem we don't know what to do with. In fact, it is the pattern, the how-to, for living our whole lives God's way every day. Living His way changes everything because it changes how we see things and how we act towards Him, towards others, and even towards ourselves, thus changing how things affect us.
He wants us to be joyful, gentle, loving, anxiety-free, trusting, thankful, walking in faith,
peace-filled, thinking on good things, and self-controlled. (Now HOW exactly did you say I could do that again? Remember, I already tried everything!)
Philippians 4:4-9 NIV says, "4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
These scriptures are pretty straight forward and easy to understand. You are to rejoice and be joyful in the Lord, AND you are to be gentle with everyone, to the tune of even having a REPUTATION of being gentle. When you have needs or problems, you are to go straight to God and tell Him about it. You are not to bottle it up inside and get all anxious or stressed out about it. Instead, you are to give it to Him. That is the prayer part mentioned in vs.6. Air it all out completely, missing nothing. Be totally real and transparent with Him. Let Him know exactly how you are feeling and what you are thinking, even if that means you cry or yell. God can handle it.
BUT THEN, thanking Him comes next! Start remembering all He is, and all He has done for you! Acknowledge His many blessings and His goodness by thanking Him. When you've done that, THEN it is time to ask Him for what you need or want. Petition and make your requests to our loving, caring Heavenly Father, and KNOW that He is hearing you and beginning to act on your behalf right when you ask. Even when you don't see the answers just yet, you know He is working.
Not only does God start to move heaven and earth for you, but He also begins to impart His kind of peace to you while you are waiting to see His answers, the kind of peace that doesn't even make sense. It is beyond our comprehension or understanding. It is the peace of God, and it is not dependent on circumstances, what you see, or what you feel. It is the kind of peace that is not humanly possible, but only comes through the power of Jesus. He actually guards your heart and mind. This fantastic benefit will be yours when you refuse to become anxious, but instead bring all your stuff to Him.
In verse 8, God gives one more instruction that will help to keep you stress and anxiety free, even while waiting. He says to think about good things, and to dwell on those kinds of thoughts in your mind. He doesn't just say “good” things either, but comes up with all kinds of synonyms to emphasize exactly what He wants you to spend your time thinking about! He wants you to really get the picture. He showed me something even more radical about that verse, too. You are not only to think about things that are naturally good, pure, and noble in life around you, but you are to search and find some good things about the very person or situation you just prayed about, too, and focus on that, rather than looking at the bad or frustrating or seemingly impossible stuff about it.
It surely looks like God is interested in protecting your mind and emotions! But it will require an act of your will, with the help of Holy Spirit, to pull this one off! It's just not our normal human way of responding to hurt or frustration, etc. However, it IS God's way, and it will reap a calm, steady, faith-filled, restful life full of trust in the Lord. Vs. 9 basically says, JUST DO IT! Whatever you have learned, received, heard, or seen in Him, put it into practice. TAKE ACTION, with the help and guidance of Holy Spirit. You WILL begin to see your prayers answered, too! Is it worth the effort? Are His ways worth following? YES! A RESOUNDING YES!
Now let's get down to brass tacks, and tackle that first issue we talked about. What about that annoying, stubborn, hard-to-live with, or maybe even hurtful person in your life? If you are too busy worrying or being anxious about someone and what they are doing, or even what they MIGHT do, you are not helping yourself or them. The only way to live in peace is to take one day at a time, not living in the past or worrying about the future, but only focusing on the day you woke up in.
How is that possible, you say, and what would it look like? Well, like we said earlier, living out Philippians 4:4-9 is a great start! It might even mean practicing Philippians 4:6 daily, hourly, or even every five minutes—actually doing it EVERY time you feel anxiety creeping up on you. By praying for that person and then releasing them into God's loving, merciful, and just hands, it frees Him to work in their lives with no interference from you. You no longer get in God's way by making snide comments or behaving badly toward them out of your hurt, anxious, frustrated heart and emotions. You no longer draw their attention to you with your mouth and your behavior. When you get OUT of the way in someone's life, Holy Spirit gets IN their way. He begins to work HIS way in them, with no distractions or slow-downs caused by YOUR human logic or actions.
Next God can start to work in YOUR life and heart, too, to further build your trust and faith in Him. You are no longer focusing on someone else, but only on YOU and Him. Think about this: the only person you actually have control over is yourself. It is called self-control in the Word of God. If you will willingly and humbly choose to recognize your desire and need to control someone else's life when God points it out, and then surrender that urge to Him, He will lovingly teach you a new way to interact with others. He will even teach you a new and better way to interact with yourself. His way is loving, compassionate, and caring—true agape love.
This does not mean you will stop seeing the truth about others! But you will RESPOND, rather than REACT, to them because you have learned from Holy Spirit how to be self-controlled and God-controlled. You will be able to leave judgement to God, and instead display kindness and love out of a full heart, EVEN to your enemies or those you are not in agreement with.
Letting go and letting God changes how you perceive everything! Will there still be times you will be hurt or feel misunderstood? Yes, for sure, because you are still human in an imperfect world, but you will know to run to Jesus and air your troubles to Him, give them over to Him, and then allow Him to work, both in you and in those who have offended you. This is the way to walk in peace, rest, and joy, regardless of circumstances. This is truly walking in the Spirit. It is worth the effort to learn new ways of responding from Holy Spirit.
Again, it may be an every five minute exercise in faith at first, as you ask Holy Spirit to help you recognize when you slip into trying to control someone else's thoughts, opinions, or actions. You may have been blind to this for a very long while, so it might pinch a little when He actually starts pointing it out to you, at your request of course. It may even be a deeply ingrained habit that will truly take Holy Spirit to help you recognize it and then, by His grace, change it. But that is the beauty and comfort in all of this! YOU ARE NOT ALONE! He is always there with you, and He WANTS to help you be more like Him!
He is full of love, compassion, and mercy toward you, and He is excited to have an intimate, free, fulfilling relationship with you! He desires that two-way conversations between you and Holy Spirit and regularly spending time with each other become the norm, rather than the exception. When you let go of trying to control your environment and everything and everyone in it, your focus can then change to really seeing and hearing and communing with our Lord. You will no longer be controlled by the stuff and people around you.
You are free to be who Jesus called you to be. You are free to be shaped and molded into His likeness because Jesus is where your focus is. You can begin to see what He wants to do IN you, and what He wants to do THROUGH you. It becomes your joy to submit to Him, repent if need be, and then let Him change you and shape you into His likeness. You can then walk out your life reflecting His inner beauty and letting His light shine out of you. You will receive the benefits of rest, peace, fulfillment, and satisfaction in your OWN life when you live this way. But you will also BE a blessing to those around you as genuine love, light, caring, and compassion radiate naturally out of the depths of your very being toward those around you. JESUS IN YOU, the hope of glory!!