Philippians 4:2-9 comes near the end of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. Paul is in jail in Rome and the people in Philippi are facing tough times. Like James, Paul gives some sage advice for facing dark days.
His first word of advice is to rejoice! Now how is that possible? Joy is the outcome of our focus. If I focus on my problems, they somehow grow in size and I am overwhelmed by the woe-is-me-s. If I get caught in comparison-itis, the “other” for sure will have a better life than I. We ask ourselves if the glass is half full or half empty. Paul tells us to focus on God. “The Lord is near.” How does that help. God has our back. We may be down but we are not out. Our epic hero, God, is stronger than our epic villain and God will win. Our struggles are not random but meaningful. God promises justice. If we focus on him our perspective changes. I find playing music helps. Sometimes a good cry is helpful rather than screaming at the children. In the Psalms there are the psalms of lament or sorrow. Even greats like David had bad days, angry thoughts, guilt to deal with and the psalms give words for dark days.
Secondly v. 6 tells us to pray. Troubles have a way of making us feel isolated and uncared for. Covid has indeed made many sick but many more suffer from the isolation of being homebound and not allowed visitors or family presence. We are deprived of human touch. Prayer unites us with heavenly comfort and as we pour our heart out we often feel the unseen arms engulf us. Perhaps we don’t know how to pray but the Bible says the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with words greater than sighs. Prayer pulls us into community. Praying with a friend, a prayer partner, if only by phone is helpful.
Thirdly we need to focus on the positive, “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.” I don’t think that is denying reality but to focus on the good in the situation opens our minds and our hearts to hope and potential. God often works outside our box but we become so tunnel vision that we cannot see. Focusing on the positive opens our vision.
Rejoicing, praying and focusing on the positive are good strategies for dark days. The early Christians had persecution, poverty, and political injustice even as we do today. Rather than focusing on our problems today, let’s pick one of the problems facing our country and spend a few minutes praying about it: covid, immigration, climate challenges, economic struggles are good places to spend a few minutes praying. Can you find a silver lining in your cloud today? Blessings.