Inner Joy Beyond Outer Circumstance

[Prefacing Note: This post represents a fourth (and final) installment on Joy as it is characterized in Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians [what some have called the “epistle of joy”… for all the ways the word appears throughout its four chapters]. Taking rich and meaningful words/concepts (like Joy) and distinguishing them from their secular-cultural counterparts (like “happiness” and “feeling good”) is a crucial task of spiritual formation.]

Having established the basis of peace with God in chapter 3 of Philippians (Letting Go… and Letting God), Paul advances to the close of his epistle with some sense of the outer peace that such a relationship brings:
• Individuals being reconciled (vs 2-3)
• Letting go of anxiety
• Being content in all circumstances

peace paintingAnd all this, again, as he writes in chains, behind bars!

It brings to mind an image of my mom in her final days.
Cancer and treatments had ravaged her body.
Outwardly, she was a shell of her former self.

“I’m sorry I am not more classy,” she feebly said at one point—referring, I suspect, to the ways her hair was not as kept as she would have preferred… and all the other indignities that death and dying can thrust on any soul with any amount of esteem.

It broke my heart to hear her speak that way.

I found a voice deep down in my crying,
“No Mom!
Class is not a matter of outer circumstance.
Class is a matter of inner character.
And you are one classy lady!”

It approaches, I believe,
the spirit of Paul’s closing words
about peace and joy in Philippians 4:

Life can ravage the body
and assault the heart–
tempting us to believe we’ve lost our way and class
But Deep calls to deep–
where eternal joy and peace abide,
inviting us to sing—even in the chains,
“It is well. It is well with my soul.”

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