And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
I was at a funeral this week and the Pastor concluded the service with this familiar blessing taken from the King James translation of this verse, “May the Peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I have heard that blessing many times. But, as Yogi Berra might say, this week I was hearing it again for the first time.
I never thought about this blessing I had heard so many times. What does it mean to wish someone “peace that passes all understanding,” or as the NIV says “transcends all understanding?” I did a little research when I got home and found what I expected, a great theological explanation. As one commentator says, “it is a tranquility that comes when believers commit all their cares to God in prayer and worry about them no more.” There’s no arguing with that. But, it didn’t seem complete to me.
As I mulled this over during the rest of the week, I thought, “How would I describe something ‘that passes all understanding?’” In this case, the synonyms could be “incomprehensible,” “mysterious,” or “seemingly impossible.” That led to the question, “When does someone experience the incomprehensible, mysterious or seemingly impossible peace of God?” Do you experience a peace that passes understanding when you have great health, a steady job and a place to live? Not really, that peace is understandable. How about when your children are healthy and happy, your marriage is sound, and you have more than you need? Same answer, no one would have trouble understanding the peaceful feeling you have in those situations. You see where I am going with this. Paul is saying, “May you experience God’s peace when others might expect you to worry, panic or give up in despair.”
If you are a believer, you may experience that kind of peace. If you don’t, there are some things you can do that may help. This verse comes at the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians and follows his closing admonitions: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:4-6 (NIV)). If you read this blog regularly, you have seen some of these themes: giving thanks, prayer, and gentleness. Paul is saying, when we practice these things, we will know God’s peace in situations where we might otherwise panic.
My prayer for you this week is that through giving thanks, prayer and gentleness, you will know God’s peace that transcends all understanding.