Guest Post by BJ Olson
Executive Director at Emmaus Counseling Center and Pastoral Care Counselor at Richland Baptist Church
Deep happiness is in the spirit, not the body or even the feelings. It is like an anchor that holds fast and calm on the bottom even while storms rage on the surface. God allows physical and emotional storms to strengthen the anchor; fires to test and harden our mettle. Our souls must become bright, hard, sharp swords. That is our destiny and His design. We are not toys; we are swords. And that requires tempering in the fire. The sword of the self is to sing in the sun eternally, like the seraphim. If we could catch even a glimpse of this heavenly destiny, if we understood why we are destined to judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3), we would not see a problem in the sufferings of Job. Teresa of Avila said that the most miserable earthly life, seen from the perspective of heaven, looks like one night in an inconvenient hotel.
-Handbook of Christian Apologetics
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:7 (NKJV)
This verse seems to be a favorite for those that are going through hard times. I think back over my life and I recall times when the Peace of God came over me during a particularly difficult time. When we can let go of suffering and come to the "peace of God" then we have entered into Christian Mindfulness. The passage in Philippians 4:4-9 offers some practical help in how to get to that place of peacefulness beyond what the natural mind can understand, when we come under the watchful care of our loving Savior Christ Jesus.
Rejoice in the Lord
Rejoicing in the Lord in the good times is quite easy and natural. Rejoicing in the Lord through the hard times is difficult to the extreme and only seems to happen supernaturally. Turn your heart toward God and put your full weight into His loving arms. Trust in the fullness of God to meet your every need. God may use others to bring His fullness to you, but do not trust in the fullness of others to get you through the valley. Only God will do if we are to enter the Peace of God.
Stop Fighting and Be Lenient
Fighting reality is the surest way to increase suffering. Apparently, the word epieikes is a hard word to translate from Greek to English. The words used in various translations are graciousness, forbearance, moderation, gentle spirit, gentle behavior, reasonableness, gentleness, considerate, forbearing spirit, and lenience.
When we hold on to what is fair and just in our own mind, we are not exhibiting epieikes. Fighting reality is only amplified when reality is a person who has hurt you, maligned you, spoke evil against you, disregarded you, abandoned you, neglected you, gossiped about you (feeling angry yet). The interesting thing is that when you hold onto your right of retribution you lose the Peace of God. What do you trade it for? Sleepless nights, fear of quarrel, further hurt, escalating anger, guilt, and extended suffering. Philippians 4:5 makes it clear that the path to peace is through releasing your rights and choosing to be at peace with that person.
In this one word we find the missing element in broken relationships, split families, unsatisfying marriages, sibling rivalry, dysfunctional workplaces, and unresolved pain caused by others. The truth is if I could bottle up the elixir this word contains and give it to those that come to me for counsel I could resolve nearly all of their life's suffering.
So I box-but not as if I were just shadow boxing. 1 Cor 9:26 (GW)
I have a friend to whom I often quip "stop shadow boxing." It is my cue to him when he is fighting against reality rather than allowing God to move through his situation. Not too long ago I was talking to him on the phone and he said, "BJ there was a person that told me a while back to stop shadow boxing." It was the exact word that I needed to lift me out of suffering. I am thankful for friends that can be honest even when it does not feel good. Living a life without epieikes is shadow boxing with reality.
The Lord is Near
When we recognize the nearness of our Lord there is a settling that occurs in our spirit. We can get our eyes off our own suffering, off of painful circumstances, off of hurtful relationships, and on to a loving savior that wants you to embrace the delight, love, and joy of this life and the supreme happiness that awaits us in heaven.
If epieikes kills the peace with others then worry kills the peace within. Matthew 6:25-34 is the most important passage in the Bible on the topic of worry (in my opinion). We worry about so many things, but Christian Mindfulness teaches us that one thing is needed, to seek God and His kingdom. Even in Philippians 4:6 says, "Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Everything we do should be brought before the Lord in prayer, petition, and thanksgiving. This seeking after God is the cure for anxiety. Even when our prayers are not answered in the manner that we expect we can trust in His goodness to provide exactly what we need even to guide us through dark times.
Focus on the Good things in Life
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 any praise-dwell on these things. Phil 4:8 (HCSB)
There is so much I could write on this verse alone, but the short of it is that by putting your mind on the good things in life you leave no room to be mindful of suffering. By being mindful of suffering you can literally think yourself into misery and depression. You want to be mindful of the honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, morally excellent, and praiseworthy things in life. Escape the dark thoughts and be blessed by the beauty of this great world God has placed us in.
Paul says, "Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. (Phil 4:9)" Has God shown you something that you have yet to do? Have you received a message through the Bible, sermon, Bible study, a fellow believer in Christ that you have yet to put into action? Paul says do it. When we put our faith into action it is evidence that we trust God. When we fail to put our faith into action it is evidence that either we are unwilling to obey or that we do not trust Him. Either way it takes us away from the peace of God.
In summary, rejoicing in the Lord, being lenient with others, stopping our worry, seeking God, focusing on the good things in life, and obeying the Lord is the pathway to the mindful peace of God. Knowing the path is not the same as walking the path. If it seems difficult, it is, but with God all things are possible. God Bless You All!
If you would like more information on “Christian Mindfulness”, visit BJ's blog here.