I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen. (Phil 4:12-14, 19-20)
It is, quite clear that Paul is not speaking literally when he speaks of having learned “the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry.” What on earth could that mean? Is their some secret to feeling less hungry? Paul tells us to fill up our stomachs with water to lessen the pains of hunger! No, I hardly think that is the message.
Paul is quite clearly telling us that our present physical situation is irrelevant, it’s how we are choosing to react to it that is. And he is saying that our faith is our strength, it is what gives meaning and the framework for assessing our true situation.
Have you ever had occasion to grumble about some problem that plagues you at the moment, only to be reminded suddenly of what real pain and suffering are all about? Television has the magic ability to place us in the tent cities of Haiti and in shelters in Japan, where people try to cope with having lost everything and often everyone in their lives. Then that pesky problem with the car mechanic comes into true focus doesn’t it?
Paul is saying essentially the same thing. God’s blessings and love for us give us the context of our true situation. We can see that our problems, big or small do not in any way dent or mar in the smallest measure that treasure which is God. It is from that framework that we can quietly and with confidence and calmness, make choices to move forward.
God truly will supply all that we need for the undertaking. He provides that shelter of love and perfect care that enables us to move with the assurance that we are not alone, not ever.
This is never to minimize the agonies that can assail any one of us at any time. Religion is often blamed for offering people words of comfort while they die of hunger. This absolves none of us from our duty as God’s stewards to help each other to the very best of our abilities. It absolves no government from its responsibility to hold up its end of the social compact.
What is means quite simply is that wringing our hands and falling into depression and thus coming to a halt over our crises throughout life is not the answer. In fact, God gives us, as Paul points out, “in all circumstances and in all things” what we need to go on. For Paul it meant that he might go to bed hungry, but tomorrow he would still preach the Gospel to willing ears. The next day, God willing, some soul would offer to share a meal, and that would sustain for another day.
Perhaps we needs stand back and stop looking so far down the road, but turn to our companions in sorrow, and focus on each other and the next step. Surely we can make that one next step? Surely we can. And tomorrow will take care of tomorrow.