I’m a follower of Jesus. So when he says, “Ask and you will receive, seek, and you will find, knock and the door will be opened,” I keep on asking…seeking…knocking. And I have found a peace that can sustain me through difficult times like these. So it makes sense when he says, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” I have to admit I can’t. So, either I feel helpless or I trust him. When there is something I can do about a problem I have, I go ahead and do that. There are some things in life that I can control. But there are also some things that I can’t control, things that just need to happen if I’m going to be OK. That’s when I reach out to someone whose thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and his ways are higher than my ways.
Another of Jesus’ followers wrote something wise about finding peace. (You can read it in the Bible in Philippians chapter 4, verses 6 and 7.) He said, “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 surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In the original language, the word prayer here means literally “an exchange of wishes.” Ask for what you wish, expecting that God will wish to give to you. Petition means an urgent request because there is a deep feeling of need. Thanksgiving of course is gratitude, noticing what is good in your life, what is going well, especially when you are given what you are asking for. (Science tells us gratitude is good for our mental health!) Peace literally means a oneness “joined, tied together into a whole.” It implies peace of mind that comes when everything is put together like it’s supposed to. So in everyday language, we would say, you won’t fall apart, you’ll keep it together, stay collected. And the concept of surpassing comprehension means it will go beyond what you can reason.
This is significant for a science-based practitioner like me. We have a lot to offer people based on current neuroscience. There is a lot we can understand about how to get on top of anxiety (see other posts here). But this is talking about something that transcends human capacity to comprehend. I guess we would say it’s supernatural. That is what is being promised us. It is also saying that this peace will guard our hearts and minds like a military unit being assigned to us to keep watch, like sentinels. It is interesting that the word heart here means the affective center of our being, the desires and the motivation that makes us who we are. Neuroscience tells us that is located in the limbic system of our brain. It is our emotional reactions, our personality, the stuff we’re made of. It’s solid and reliable, but also limited. It is a set of conditioned responses that keep happening regardless of circumstances. But it needs to be surpassed if we are going to be able to get outside our reactions to our circumstances. The mind here means the capacity to reason, the ability to reach a comprehensive understanding. That happens in our frontal lobes, the highest capacity we have as human beings to be self-aware and to reason. What this is saying is that this peace is beyond human desire and motivation, our personalities or even our capacity to reason.
So we are being offered an ability to rise above our circumstances that goes beyond our own capacity. And we are being offered just what we need when life gets beyond what we can control humanly. At least that is the way offered to us in following Jesus.
Whatever your heritage, whatever you have been taught, prayer appeals to a power higher than you for help. I encourage you to move beyond yourself… and pray in these unusual circumstances. You’ll receive help. It’s what we all need in times like these.