By Michael E. Brooks
“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
In Bangladesh, if you can’t find something to worry about, you are just not trying. Between swine flu (259 cases and counting), bird flu, anthrax (newly discovered), and the good old standbys of typhoid, malaria, dengue fever, tuberculosis, and cholera, the doctors don’t have trouble staying busy.
Add to that the rate of violent crime, snakes (9,000 deaths per year), traffic accidents, and the occasional terrorist – well, maybe you get the picture.
It is common for missionaries to parts of the world considered dangerous to be asked, “aren’t you afraid to go there? How do you deal with the dangers?”
Those are reasonable questions. I certainly do not believe that all missionaries are braver than other people, nor that they are fool hearty, or not intelligent enough to recognize the risks.
Most missionaries of my acquaintance are fully aware of the possible dangers of the work they do and the travels they experience. They are able to go, not because of superior courage or faith, but because they have learned to practice the advice of the Holy Spirit.
They simply do not think about the dangers.
If anyone dwells continually upon all the negative possibilities of life, he will be greatly hindered from any meaningful accomplishment, or even from the joy and pleasure of living. Fear will paralyze. Worry cripples. Wherever one may live or travel, there is risk of illness, accident or violent attack. Those are facts of life, part of the evils ever present in this world.
But those possibilities are only one side of the story. Just as there is negative potential for every action undertaken, so there is also the potential for good, and for the receiving of blessings.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Many brave and faithful Christians have learned simply to pray for God’s care and safekeeping, then to leave those things to him. Once he has been asked to provide help and comfort, he can be trusted to do what is best for us and what will best fulfill his will.
Is it easy to become so trusting? Possibly not. This may be why Paul describes the peace that comforts us as “surpassing all understanding”. We don’t know how we may be able to rely so completely upon him, but once we make that commitment and the effort that it requires, we may be amazed at how peaceful our thoughts become.
One other key to this trust is indicated by the required addition to our prayers, “with thanksgiving.” When we recognize the blessings God has already given us, and are appropriately grateful for them, we are less demanding of future gifts.
Whatever God may or may not do for us in the future, he has already blessed us far more than we deserve. He owes us nothing. If we are in Christ we have received his grace and mercy, and we can be content.
By Michael E. Brooks