In Philippians 4 we read that Paul says that the Lord is at hand. In these words, we can rejoice even though we are mourning. The Lord is near, even to those who mourn and long.
by rev Marnix Boersema
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious 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.
“Rejoice in the Lord” … may not be something that one thinks is appropriate in a time when we are sad and longing for a loved one who has passed on. Philippians is called the “happiest letter” in the Bible. This is the Letter of Joy, and yet it was written from prison! The apostle Paul is bound in chains, in the dark, damp, uncomfortable prison cell… and he writes: “Let your kindness be made known to all men.” Striking!
The foundation of Paul’s joy is that the Lord is near
Paul knows this joy and kindness is not something he can gain by himself. No matter how deep he digs within himself. That is why he writes in Philippians 4:5:
The Lord is at hand …
This little sentence is one that we often miss when we read these popular words in Philippians. The Lord is at hand … it is the heart, the foundation of Paul’s joy. He does not want us to put on masks of joy. Nor does he want us to force ourselves to be happy while we are actually deeply saddened!
The apostle wants to write the truth about the Lord’s nearness on your heart today, so that you too may experience this supernatural joy and kindness, even in times of sorrow and longing.
The significance of the Lord’s nearness
When the Lord’s nearness is a reality to you, when you experience it through his Holy Spirit in your heart, there are three consequences. The certainty that the Lord is near:
- Gives us true joy that lies outside of ourselves.
- Gives us rest.
- Works in us the intense experience of God’s peace.
1. The certain knowledge that the Lord is near brings joy that is outside of myself
“Rejoice in the Lord always … The Lord is at hand,” (Philippians 4: 4-5). Where does my joy lie? It is anchored in our certain knowledge that the Lord is near, regardless of our circumstances. We mourn, yes. There is nothing wrong with that. Yet we mourn while the Lord is near. Through faith we can find comfort in knowing that we are really not crying alone. Through our tears, there is reason for rejoicing in the Lord.
2. The certain knowledge that the Lord is near gives us rest
“… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” (Philippians 4: 6). The Lord is so near to me, that I can make all my desires known to him. Prayerfully, humbly, thankfully I pour out my heart before him who cares for me. Through prayer He calms me because I know He is near.
I rejoice in the Lord, not by keeping silent about everything that makes me sad. I rejoice and find rest from all my worries when I give all my worries to him, when I tell him my worries, and when I pray for my help from him! He who is near me and with his Spirit in me; He will help me. I will speak to him; pray to him. With that, I embalm the deep wounds that the death of a loved one leaves behind.
3. The certain knowledge that the Lord is near instills in us inner peace
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:7). It is the Holy Spirit who wraps my heart and senses in the palm of his hand! The Tower in which our hearts and minds are locked in is Christ Himself and the Soldier who is on guard is the Holy Spirit! Therefore, it is a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Peace in God’s nearness
Have you ever seen and heard of believers, who stay standing in the midst of immense sorrow and trauma? They experience a calmness and a strength that just makes you think: how is it possible that they can handle it that way? This is the peace of God that He brings in his nearness. This is what it looks like when the Holy Spirit wraps the heart and mind of a person and keeps them safe in Christ Jesus! It absolutely transcends the mind!
The joy in Philippians 4 is too high for us to comprehend. Especially in times of grief and sorrow. You will never find it in yourself. You will not be able to create or gain it. This joy and peace lie beyond us. It lies in our Lord Jesus Christ. He who is near me, comforts me. He who is near me, assures me that He is coming again. He who is near me makes me joyful. The Lord is near, He is also near to you, dear Christians, who mourn and long.