By Corrie Gerbatz
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Ten years ago, the first waves of struggle hit my family.
The economy crashed and along with it so did our lives. My husband was laid off from his job; our bank accounts circled the drain and we were forced to make difficult financial decisions. Ultimately, we lost our home — and along with it our sense of security — and had to move to a house that held none of our memories but much hardship.
We prayed for patience to weather the storm. We did our best to “make do” in the waiting. And we kept our eyes on the horizon for calmer waters. But the calm never came. Instead, the waves continued to build, and one storm seemed to lead to another. From ongoing financial hardships to relationship trials, ongoing health issues, and beyond, our lives felt completely shipwrecked.
For years I prayed God would change something, anything, in our circumstances.
I begged, “Lord, please give us a break.” I bartered, “If You do this … I promise I’ll do that …” And I grumbled — a lot: “Lord, it’s too much. This just isn’t fair!”
Have you ever felt as though you were stuck in life? Or worse … sinking? You’ve tried your best to keep moving forward, to keep your head above water, but the waves of struggle are relentless. Gone is the energy to put on a “good face” and pretend everything is OK — because everything is definitely not OK. Surviving the day while dreading the next is the endless cycle of your reality.
I know that kind of living.
Yet still, the waves came, and I couldn’t help but feel as though my prayers had been filed under “forgotten.” So I stopped praying about it for a long time … until recently.
While reading the book of Philippians, I was reminded of the Apostle Paul. Now Paul was a man who knew a thing or two about difficult circumstances and setbacks. In his travels to advance the gospel, he navigated a number of hardships — poverty, beatings, literal shipwrecks, and hunger. In fact, at the time he wrote Philippians, he was a prisoner of Rome. Paul had every reason to barter, beg and grumble about his circumstances. But he didn’t — not a word. Instead, his letter to the church at Philippi was one written in hope, full of thanks and overflowing with joy.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
This verse in particular struck a chord of conviction deep within my soul. Paul was reminding his fellow believers to pray “with thanksgiving” in “every situation” (v. 6, emphasis added). I had long forgotten the “thankful” piece.
Paul was assuring his fellow believers the peace of God would triumph over any circumstance. But I had only desired God to change my circumstance.
Paul radiated joy while in chains, but I marinated in my misery.
My heart had been so focused on the storm that I had lost sight of God’s faithful presence in the midst. I knew I needed to admit where I’d turned from God and resume praying. So I did. But this time around, my prayers are sounding a little different. This time, I’m asking God to cultivate within me a heart of thanks for His daily provisions. I’m seeking His peace to guard against anxious thoughts. And I’m learning to choose joy when clouds of despair loom and my trust falters.
Friends, if you find yourself sinking amid a trying season, and your trust is wavering — take heart! Not only is the Lord sovereign over every circumstance, but He’s with us in every circumstance. Our prayers have not been forgotten. Our loving Father has heard every word. He knows our struggles; He desires to lift us up and He is waiting to calm the storms within our hearts. We need only turn to Him and ask. I pray we all would be encouraged to do just that today.
Heavenly Father, I am humbled. Hallelujah — You are my assurance, and my circumstances are not! Open my eyes to Your gracious provisions. Embolden my trust in You that I might more clearly radiate Your peace and Your joy in my life today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.