I don’t know about y’all, but I am tired of the news. I am sure you can tell if you have read my other posts about recent events in Nashville and online. Thing is, I don’t really think it is very healthy to focus on global problems all the time. That being said, please, don’t dismiss me as being “against __________ (fill in your cause)”. I believe we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I believe whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Christ. I believe we are to care for widows and orphans. I believe in being informed about the needs of the world.
And yet, I also believe that we aren’t meant to be saturated with news coverage. As Dr. Graham C. L. Davey wrote for Psychology Today, “….bombarding people with ‘sensationalized’ negativity does have genuine and real [negative] psychological effects.” The more I have studied, the more I find the truths being sought are already found in the Bible. God knew we needed to be reminded to “focus on the positives” long before psychologists told us so.
That’s why we are admonished by Paul in Phillipians 4:8 to do just that.
“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”
Most people who have been around churches for any length of time have heard this verse. It is a favorite of Etsy crafters and can be seen on all kinds home decor in big Christian chain stores. But, have you ever heard/read it in context?
Let’s go back a few verses and pick up in verse 4…
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Whenever I leave the kids with someone else, be it Bible class, grandparents, or babysitters I squat down and ask them, “What are our rules?” They reply, “Love God. Love others. Offer Christ.” I smile and affirm their answer. “What does our family stand for?” I ask next. “Respect and kindness,” is their answer. Y’all, as a mom, when I am leaving my family for any length of time, I give my final “don’t forget to…” right before hugs and goodbyes. I want them to remember my teachings and trainings when I am not physically present. I want them to have these simple bullet points to be at the forefront of their minds and carved on their hearts.
As this letter to the church at Phillipi is ending, this is exactly what I see Paul doing. In verse 2, he gives his instruction for two sisters to play nice together, and for another family member (v.3) to help them remember that they are sisters with a common purpose. Then we have verses 4-10. Do you see the simple bullet points?
- Be gracious.
- God is near.
- Don’t worry.
- Be grateful.
- And then, the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds.
Worry has been described to me as “wrong feeling” (heart) and “wrong thinking” (mind). When we get caught up in the latest breaking news cycle, we leave ourselves open to wrong thinking and feeling. We are failing to dwell on things above. We lose our eternal perspective and instead join the masses crying out, “What is the world coming to?” Paul assures us that the Peace of God will guard our feelings and thinkings if we allow him to.
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Col 3:1-3
When bombs are going off, when guns are blazing, when people are oppressed, Christians shouldn’t look like the rest of the world. We shouldn’t be indistinguishable from those without the hope of God. We shouldn’t be standing around wringing our hands in fear and worry. We should be the light in the darkness. The moments of fear and tragedy are an opportunity for us to truly stand out as separate. For the world to look in at us and see that though the very gates of hell are flung open wide, we still have hope. And the Peace that passes all understanding dwells within us.
Y’all, as believers, we know where this world is going. It’s going to hell. But, as believers, we shouldn’t be afraid of this. We are saved through the blood of Christ Jesus and ours is a very different fate. When these tragedies are being paraded for ratings and political action, we see birth pains. The world wrings their hands, while we raise ours in anticipation of new life and worship of our Creator.
My go-to verses to cast out worry and fear are: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) and “When I am afraid, I will trust in you the God whose word I praise” (Psalm 56:3-4). What go-to scriptures bring you back from worry and fear when the news is bad?