A meditation on peace in the midst of tribulation while looking at Saint Paul in Philippians 4, as he was imprisoned, yet filled with peace. Many of us wait on peace, only when tribulations cease, or we are set free from prison. True beauty however, is being at peace, as tribulations persist
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.
15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
As Saint Paul writes, he is in prison, not knowing what will happen to him, yet expressing gratitude for gifts that the Philippians have sent him with his disciple Epaphroditus. Saint Paul was under duress and in stressful conditions as he was in prison, and as the early church was being persecuted. As we read the above verses however, we can see how Saint Paul was at peace in the midst of difficulties.
How can we attain peace in the midst of tribulations?
Saint Paul says: “for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Our tribulations teach us how to deal with life. They teach us a valuable lesson that we should not rely on the world and what it has to offer. Once we learn, we will know how to deal with difficulties. Difficulties teach us how to pray when we are tired and to put our heavy burdens on God. Peace will not be attained suddenly, but through diligent learning how to deal with life. Saint Paul teaches us that he learned how to be content no matter his miserable conditions and circumstances. Saint Paul looks at our Lord, and he learned how to connect himself to God in any situation. He learned to enter the heaven inside him, even when tribulations persisted on the outside. He learned how to feel the Holy Spirit within him, no matter what the conditions were. As difficult as Saint Paul’s situation was in prison, he said “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly,” because he has learned how to be filled with peace.
Saint Paul also said “every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Saint Paul did not only learn, but he also “instructed,” which means he trained himself practically. There is a difference between learning, and practically applying or training. Just like in any profession, one learns, then trains. A doctor learns from books, then trains practically at the hospital. A musician learns notes, then practically plays an instrument. In that same manner, Saint Paul learned, but also trained “both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” We learn to achieve peace when we study the Bible and listen to sermons, but we must also train on how to achieve peace. Reaching true peace requires learning and training. Training turns an idea, into reality. For example, we are taught to not surrender to evil thoughts, and instead to fight bad thoughts by reciting the words of God and Bible verses. At first this might be difficult, and bad thoughts will cloud your mind, but this is where the training happens. As you start to think about God, and his presence and constant helping hand, slowly but surely you will feel calmness in your heart. Training comes after learning and is important to achieve peace. Once you train enough on something, it starts becoming a habit. With training, you will find that like Saint Paul, you have achieved a state of peace and content in every situation.
Saint Paul then goes on to say “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” In other words, he has “mastered” all things through Christ. Nothing can shake a man that has mastered “all things.” Saint Paul has learned, trained and mastered how to handle anything the world throws at him, while retaining his inner peace, and rejoicing in the Lord greatly. He can accept anything, through the divine power that is Jesus Christ. Absorb the spiritual teachings, and train yourself on them until you master them so that you may obtain true inner peace regardless of the circumstances.
“ye did communicate with my affliction”
Saint Paul was happy and rejoiced when the Philippians communicated and “shared” with him his affliction. Sometimes we might be too proud, and do not accept the sharing of others in our suffering. But when we are filled with peace, we accept and rejoice when others reach a helping hand out to us. Do not be sensitive, or feel above the help you receive from others. Saint Paul says “ye have well done” to the Philippians as they shared his struggles by sending him necessities to prison. When we are going through tribulations, we must rejoice in the love we receive from others. Accepting support will fill your heart with peace amidst the tribulations. “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” (Luke 22:43). While our Lord Jesus Christ was praying in Gethsemane, an angel appeared to him to strengthen him. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not need support from anyone as he is the almighty one, but as an example to us, he showed us that we should accept support when given to us.
“I have all”
Saint Paul continues and says he has all and he has no needs. Having the sense that you need nothing is important to attain peace. When we desire many things, we lose our peace in trying to achieve what might not be achievable. Like Saint Paul, if we have all the love and safety of Christ, we will not be in any need for anything else.
On top of having it all, Saint Paul also feels he “abounds” and possess in great quantity. He therefore has all, and plenty to give as well. If during our tribulations we think about others and their hardship, and give them love, compassion, or simply a listening ear, our own hearts will be filled with peace. When you are tired and going through difficulties, serving others is a solution to your problem as well. Think of others, because if you only think about yourself, your tribulations will grow larger. When we give, regardless of our own needs, we will be filled with peace.
“I am full”
Saint Paul is filled with the happiness of the Holy Spirit. He is full of all the things that were sent to him by the Philippians, and is very grateful considering the gifts “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.” As can be imagined, the physical gifts Saint Paul received could not have been the true source of his deep happiness, but it is the love of the people, and the love of God in his heart that caused him while still in prison to rejoice in such a manner.
Saint Paul is happy, and possesses peace in the midst of his tribulations because he learned, he trained, and he mastered. Through these virtues Saint Paul enjoyed the support of others, and feels like he has it all and is full with plenty to give to others. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, no pain can affect us, and no tribulation can shake us. Any condition and any situation can be handled with full tranquility and peace. Tribulations do not cause us to lose our peace, but how we react to tribulations is what causes loss of peace. Let’s focus on being filled with the peace of the Holy Spirit, for as we do so, we will notice that our problems are small, and that heaven is great, and we will taste true peace in our hearts
– From a Sermon of Father Daoud Lamei