I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 ESV
When life circumstances are difficult, folks need a promise to get them through the tough times. Philippians 4:13 is just such a promise. Yet many of my counseling clients feel abandoned by God when they need him most. How do we bridge the gap between what we know in our head and feel in our heart? By recognizing this gap symbolizes past relational hurt and pain that needs God’s healing. Let me explain.
My pastor is doing a series called “Out of Context.” He’s looking at key passages such as Philippians 4:13. Reading it in context, Paul is explaining the principle of contentment. Believing God will strengthen us in all things is based on our contentment in our circumstances. Pastor Philip reminded the congregation when you have Jesus, you have everything you need. God is fully in control. We can rest in the knowledge that he will give us everything we need.
But what if there’s a huge gap between acknowledging this truth and feeling loved by God in the midst of your difficulties? This is where healing needs to take place.
In talking with clients about this gap, they always share stories about being disappointed and hurt in significant relationships. Developmentally, children are egocentric; they view the world as revolving around them. Part of the emotional maturing process involves learning how to share and take turns (sacrificial love). The ability to trust in God is primarily learned in our family of origin. If it was never your turn to have your needs met as a child, those wounds will keep you from trusting in God’s heart. Most folks respond by needing to be in control to make sure their needs get met. Instead of waiting in faith for our turn, we’re wounded over and over by feeling that even God has forgotten us.
If you read Philippians 4:13 and experienced a jolt of anger, bitterness, or pain--feeling like it didn’t “work” for you--I’ve got good news! God wants to heal your broken heart and replace your disappointment with belief. Healing involves separating the human from the divine.
Contentment is based on believing God’s heart is always turned towards us, even when we don’t see the evidence with our eyes. Jesus modeled a radically different way to love others. He knows what it’s like to be rejected, abandoned, shamed, and misunderstood. And he also knows how to love you and me absolutely perfectly.
Spend time grieving how broken human beings failed to love you well. Emptying out the sorrow allows room for God to fill you with his comfort and care. Move toward your hurt and pain. Sit in sorrow. Receive compassion and comfort from God and others. Ask God to cleanse your heart and mind. Then reach for his promises—you won’t be disappointed.
Photo courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org