I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
These verses from Philippians help focus our celebration of the soon-to-be-born Jesus Christ, savior of the world. It references what must have been a very trying time in Paul’s life, being imprisoned and isolated due to his fervent belief in God. I do not know if he had enough food to eat or if he had warm clothing or shelter from the elements. But I can imagine that the conditions from which he wrote this letter to the Philippians were incredibly harsh.
And yet, he is full of gratitude.
He prays for all in the church at Philippi with joy, love, and compassion. He has very little except his conviction. In this modern day where the unending desire to “obtain more” of everything reigns, just imagine if we all “needed more” joy, love, compassion, conviction, or gratitude. What changes would occur?
I recently read, Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown. She says that one of the greatest markers of a high level of resiliency among people going through great tragedy is gratitude.
It is difficult for me to imagine any greater tragedy than living through a pandemic. And then I consider the people in our country and around the world who are not yet provided equitable standing under the law or in their faith community due to the color of their skin, their gender identification, or their sexual orientation. I think about the people in prisons, those lacking adequate healthcare, and the immigrants who face great obstacles only to be met with a forced return to their home countries. For many of them, every day must seem like a day of pandemic living.
In spite of the difficulties I see around me and sometimes face myself, I am grateful. I am grateful that organizations like the N.C. Council of Churches exists. I am grateful for the beneficial and often difficult work that it conducts. I am grateful that I am aware of these great humanitarian tragedies that exist and that I am in a position to help mitigate them. And I am grateful that, if I feel nothing else is helping, I can pray with joy, love, and compassion for everyone who is in great need while awaiting the coming of better, more unified days. I can ground myself in my conviction and belief in God, just as Paul did long ago, and continue to support the good work and causes that support my beliefs.