I have been camping out in the book of Philippians a lot over the past two months. There are some really good verses about thinking on what’s true, and praying through, and knowing that all that is not in my hands or control is in God’s. I’ve needed lots of reminders and have kept it simple by going there to that short book in the Bible when I needed those reminders.
I’ve read this small encouraging book (only 4 chapters) countless times over the past few months.
But today as I read it, these two words jumped out at me: “Whatever happens…”
I seriously felt pretty silly because I was like, where did that come from? I checked the translation. Yep–the one I often go to.
But maybe, just maybe, those two words jumped out at me for a reason.
You see, the ‘whatever happens’ list from a few months back might have included things like, someone I love being sick or dealing with a tough time, or financial struggles, or a bad storm. My list might have included having students who were really struggling, or lots of demands with time and energy, or helping loved ones navigate new areas in their lives or new challenges. The whatever list might have included needing wisdom for decisions or direction.
But my “whatever happens” list would not have included a few things it contains now.
Now, the ‘whatever happens’ list contains COVID-19.
It includes a word I had never used before- “pandemic”.
The ‘whatever happens’ list includes Nationwide Riots and a national awareness and a collective cry that things are so not as they should be.
It includes quarantines and separation from loved ones, and isolation. It includes mask and barriers to human connection.
The list includes both rational fear /wisdom and irrational fear of an unknown virus– with a greater fear of being a carrier and possibly bringing this microscopic invader to people around me.
But Philippians 1:27 STILL says, “Whatever happens…”
“Whatever happens…conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
What a great verse…<3
In a world where a heck of a lot of strange and sad things are happening, this verse helps me have a go-to. It says’ “Conduct yourselves”, so it says ….Lead. Lead as opposed to be led. Lead by the hope of the gospel, as opposed to being sucked in to the waves of the ‘whatever happens’
So, it reminds me to not be led by the ‘whatever happens’…. but be led by the gospel, a.k.a. good news, (GREAT news) of Christ.
If we let ourselves be led by the ‘whatever happens’, sheesh, we’d be on a wild ride for sure. It’d be a non-stop wild rollercoaster of a ride with very little center of gravity. And of course the ‘whatever happens’ effects us. I mean, heck, we’re humans with brains and hearts and bodies that experience whatever happens. But the soul’s course that’s fleshed out in conduct—that’s to be led by the truth of the gospel , the oh-so-amazing news of the good news that comes in Christ.
Paul wasn’t just saying ‘whatever happens’ from an ivory tower. Nope. He was in prison. He wasn’t just imploring believers to believe, he was believing in the power of the gospel and living it. He wasn’t passively being caught up in the wave of occurrences around him, but was centered. Being filled with hope has a way of steadying a heart.
The gravity of the gospel held him steady. Not gravity in a way that weighs down, but in a way that indicates depth and breadth and steady assurance of hope. The hope in the gospel truly is like an anchor that steadies and assures and breathes life in a soul. We are to lead ourselves, not to be lead by the ever-changing circumstances of life.
Yes, I think I needed that reminder today. I needed the reminder that, yep, a heart filled with hope can be steady in a world that quakes and shakes.
I’ve seen it in a sweet friend who added the word “cancer” to her ‘whatever happens’ list. Is she tired? Yes. Is her body aching and fatigued as she goes through chemo? Yes. Is she facing fears? Yes. But is she conducting her life in a manner worthy of the gospel? YES, YES, YES. Almost daily, she’s encouraging friends with a devotion–pointing to Jesus, pointing to His good news. I’m so very thankful for the way she’s facing her ‘whatever happens’ list.
I’ve seen it in countless friends praying, following guidelines, and facing down fears by clinging to hope and not giving in to the fears that flood our social media, news, and society.
I saw it tonight on the news as the brother of George Floyd acknowledged the criminal acts committed, but implored folks to find a solution, another way that did not include violence. “Let’s find another way. We are a peaceful family, a God-fearing family.” In the midst of his deep grief, he stayed steady.
The cool thing is, folks who stay steady and cling to hope have a way of helping others stay steady and find hope.
Lots of things are contagious, and not all of them are bad. Some of them are beautiful, beautiful things–things like Hope that does not disappoint. Things like an overriding undergirding belief that there is good news and that God loves us deeply and has a plan that is full of hope.
We can conduct ourselves how we want. We make choices every day, every hour, every moment. We cannot control what happens to us, but we have amazing power to choose how we will respond to the ‘whatever happens’ that we face.
In a world that seems to be spinning so fast and so out of control, I’m so thankful to be pointed back to the amazing truth that the ball is in my court with how I conduct myself. The more I myself cling to the hope that comes in Christ, the easier it will be for me to respond in a way that would hopefully honor Him. I don’t know what ‘whatever happens’ will be added to my list next. But I’m so thankful that I know that ‘whatever’ they are, He will be in the midst and I can hope in Him.
And the beautiful thing is that “whatever happens”, nothing on the list cannot separate us from the love of Christ. Paul said it this way, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
Nothing can separate us from His love.
It is ours but for the asking.
Maybe, just maybe, the beautiful flip side of so many of these difficult things being added to the collective ‘whatever happens’ list is that …well, so many more people are asking……
After all, Living loved is what the gospel of Christ is all about.
Whatever is on your list, whatever is on mine, may they draw us closer to honor the One who loves us best.
By His Grace~
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Philippians 1:27-28