Do not worry 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.
Given the setting of the Philippians, I suspect it’s no accident that Paul tells them that the peace of Christ will “guard” their hearts and minds. Philippi, after all, was a Roman garrison, and so the presence of Roman guards was commonplace. But rather than the Roman centurions guarding the gold mines or protecting commercial business along this important trade route, it is God, according to Paul, who will keep guard and protect the “hearts and minds” of the Philippians.
Knowing that God is guarding our whole being – out thoughts, feelings, decisions, imagination – and trusting that God listens to our requests, not only alleviates worry but also grants peace. That’s an important “second” promise. It’s not just that we don’t have to worry because we trust that God is near, it’s that we can experience “peace.”
The peace Paul talks about is a sense of contentment, a security born of trust in God, a relative calm, a confident and even eager sense of expectation that the future is God’s. This is a peace that transcends human understanding.
It is also a peace that eludes our grasp. His earlier admonishment to Euodia and Syntyche to be reconciled, for instance, suggests that the Philippians are not currently experiencing that kind of peace, and I suspect that may be true for many of us as well. Because if there is one thing that is missing from many of our lives in this day and age of nonstop email, constant social media, relentless opportunities and obligations, and 24/7 instant-access everything, it is just this: peace.
Paul’s “prescription” to the problem facing the Philippians and us? Seek reconciliation with those with whom we have grievances; bring our thanksgiving, hopes, worries, and concerns to God; try to practice showing fairness to those around us.
Sound like a tall order? Absolutely, which is why Paul promises that God is keeping guard over our hearts and minds. On our own, this would be nearly impossible, but trusting that God is keeping watch over us, supporting and protecting us, we can discover the will and energy to live the life Paul describes. Moreover, we may also experience – even amid the hectic hustle and bustle of every day life – the gift and promise of peace.
Prayer: Dear God, remind us that you have promised to guard us, to keep us secure, to bring us through all hardship, and to grant us peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.