The letter of Paul to the Philippians is full of encouragement to be more Christ-like. It covers things like being humble like Christ, preparing to suffer like Christ, and pressing in and further to advance the gospel and “attain the prize.” For me it gives the impression of a general readying his soldiers for battle, or a football coach in the locker room at halftime motivating his players to hit harder and leave it all on the field. But what if you’re full of anxiety and just plain exhausted? What then? Anyway, that’s how I have felt over the past couple of weeks.
The other day it was at a boiling point for me. That afternoon I had reached the edge of something that caused me to throw my hands up in the air and look at my wife and say, ‘I’m done.’ To her credit, she just smiled and responded calmly to my anxiety. She asked, “Have you prayed about this?” I was annoyed. ‘Of course I hadn’t; can’t you tell?’ I thought. And of course she could tell. She could tell that I had no peace, and my heart had taken a beating from all that I was carrying — she could see that on my shoulders and hear it in my voice. Which brings me to my point:
It does no good bearing our burdens for they don’t make us stronger. Only God makes us stronger.
Paul has a word for that as well. He writes,
“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious 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.” Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
Notice how he begins the thought, the Lord is at hand. He is closer than our thoughts or our burdens. It is a good thing too, for if he wasn’t I would be quickly overwhelmed. He is at hand so that we know He is ready to do His part; which is to say, as soon as we are willing to lay down our burdens, He is close enough to pick them up. He is at hand to make us stronger and to carry what needs to be carried.
In addition, He is there to give us peace. This peace guards our heart in a supernatural way to keep us from being exhausted and saying silly things like, ‘I’m done.’ But again, if I don’t take it to the Lord, if I don’t pray about it like my wife challenged me, then the peace will elude me.
Finally, I love when he writes this, too. He writes it after all the locker room talk, knowing that if we are not careful we will think that it is our job alone to carry the ball down the field. He writes it after we have read all the ra-ra talk, and have felt the exhaustion of it so that we remember the prize is already won. We can run now knowing that it is ours already, and when we are tired He will carry the weight.
Anyway, after my snarky response to my wife, I did pray about it. And I wasn’t surprised when peace washed over me like gentle waterfall to cool my head. It was a needed reminder of my weakness and His strength.