This is post #24 of a 26-session blog series entitled Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. It was Eugene Peterson who said that Philippians is Paul’s happiest letter. Join us as we explore this joyful work of Christ as it manifest itself amongst Paul and Timothy, and the early church of Christ-followers in Philippi. Just maybe, we might learn a few secrets to finding true joy in the midst of our lives as well. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. Philippians 4: 10-14 (MsgB)
Last time, we talked about the nine life ingredients Paul and his friends recommend to their brothers and sisters in Christ in Philippi. To refresh your memory, Paul’s recipe goes like this:
Fill your life with things that are:
In today’s text, we once again find Paul saying that he’s found yet another recipe. This time, it’s a recipe for being happy.
Who wouldn’t want a plate of those cookies? Huh?
In truth, happiness, in this world, is a fleeting thing. Don’t you think?
For example, when was the last time you actually felt unadulterated, unpolluted, pure and simple happiness?
It doesn’t happen much, does it?
So, when Paul, (keep in mind, that he is stuck in a jail cell in Rome as he writes this letter), writes about being “far happier than you would ever guess,” my first thought is he’s either 1) smoking or drinking something pretty powerful, or 2) he’s got something inside him most of us earth dwellers just don’t have.
So, what is it?
Where does this happiness Paul writes about come from?
If you were with us when we blogged our way through Iggy’s Biggies, our blog series on Ignatian Spirituality, you might recall me talking about, what I call, the Gift of Holy Indifference. We also touched on this important subject earlier in this blog/podcast series in the blog entitled One Great Win/Win.
St. Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, talked a lot about this amazing state of happiness or inner contentment, calling it “indifference.” Sadly, this word, “indifference” in our society loses its power because, for so many of us, we consider “indifference” as a sense of detachment or a lack of caring. Today, when a person is “indifferent,” they have resigned themselves into a state of denial, wandering aimlessly in an imaginary world where “whatever will be, will be,” or as the Disney movie, The Lion King, calls it, a state of “Hakuna Matata.”
But to Ignatius, “indifference” was far from living in an imaginary place of blissful nothingness. Far from it! Actually to St. Iggy, finding a place of “indifference” was a holy place of contentment or inner happiness given to us when all the cares of this world are given less power, and our attention is focused exclusively on being found in the presence of Christ.
That’s why I like to call Ignatius’ state of “indifference”…
To me, when Paul says in today’s passage, “I’m far happier than you would ever guess,” or “I have learned to be content…whether (I am) well fed or hungry, (or) living in plenty or in want,” he is not simply putting a nice spin on his unbearable situation. You see, the ability for our hearts to find happiness, inner contentment, or peacefulness in a place of desolation is not something we can do naturally out of our own strength.
No. Paul is not saying these things out of his flesh, but, as I see it, he is operating out of the Gift of Holy Indifference, experiencing a level of inner joy and happiness that simply can’t flow out of his own strength, but from the hand of God! A “holy” gift that has come freely from a loving Father who offers us this gift as we keep our eyes on Jesus in the midst of trying situations.
So, what about you?
Have you ever asked for the Gift of Holy Indifference?
A Gift to experience an inner happiness, a place of contentment, even in the midst of your most difficult seasons of life?
The good news here is that God’s Gift of Holy Indifference is not something you have work hard at. We simply have to turn our eyes upon Jesus, asking Him to give us this gift that passes all understanding.
Will you pray with me?
Today’s Prayer: Father God, grant me the same happiness, the same inner peace and contentment expressed by the apostle Paul, as I walk through my seasons of loss or desolation. Holy Spirit, today, I receive the Gift of Holy Indifference, where the truest thing that really matters is my being close to Jesus. Or as Paul states it, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Master, as I keep my eyes on You today, give me that same strength. For Your Name’s sake and for Your Glory. Amen.
Today’s Questions to Ponder: There’s an old hymn that speaks of the Gift of Holy Indifference…
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
What “things of earth” are trying to steal my attention today, moving my eyes away from Jesus and His glory and grace? What will it look like for me to choose to focus only on Jesus today, over and above all the other “attention-grabbers?”
So, how are you experiencing Jesus as we ponder together on this journey into the Book of Philippians?
Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 26 blogs. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
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