The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:5b-7
We talked about being content in what we have, yet worry and doubt may still dog us as we consider that what we have may be insufficient or may be taken from us. Even Paul's assurance that the Lord is near may not quiet our worries. We may know God watches. The question is: Will He intervene on our behalf?
There are two returns from that query. The first is what do we mean by "on our behalf"? If we think somehow that we will be exempt from trials we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. It would be akin to the recruit thinking he might somehow be exempt from PT in boot camp. It's why we are here, to be trained and equipped for the Real Adventure™.
But the second, more positive reply is simply, Yes. God dwells with us in peace, and He will maintain that peace as a fortress around the heart and the mind. The image that comes to me from this passage is of a child learning to walk and explore the world, adventurous and bold — so long as he knows his mother is near at hand. He runs back to her frequently to touch her and reassure himself that she has not left him on his own. He cannot yet begin to imagine the force that would be necessary to drag her away. Our prayers, in this context, really are a means of "touching base" with God, tagging up before we take off to do those things that are needful.
To grasp how fully God is invested in us, it is important to remember that He is in a covenant relationship with us. This new covenant is established by the Father (not by us) in the very lifeblood of the Son (Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6). The biblical covenant is not a light thing. When God made a covenant with Abraham (see Genesis 15), Abraham took sacrificial animals, killed them and cut them in half, laying the two halves out opposite one another. After darkness fell, Abraham saw "a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces" (v.17). In a way, it is a picture of the Incarnation, for as He passed among the dissected carcasses, He was, we might say, "in meat".
When we enter into covenant with God through Jesus, He so identifies with us that He takes on our weaknesses. He takes on my frailty and your frailty as His own. He even takes on our death upon Himself. In turn He offers us identification with Him. He takes our death; we take His life. He allows you and me to take on His strength, to live His life in His power and with His resources. He walked "in meat" so we may walk "in Spirit". If we need a clue, this is why faith is so important. We are asked, in light of all that Christ has done, to believe that it was done on our behalf to create this relationship that is both spiritual and physical, both loving and legal – you know, sort of like marriage.
As an aside, our loss of faith in the symbols and rituals of tradition are not political tragedies so much as spiritual ones. Those who reject any reality except the purely physical have no reason to cling to forms and ceremonies, though they may experience a vague sense of unease as the forms are cast aside. They attribute this unease to inculcation by society and religion, often rebelling against rituals in the name of reason. They consider rituals as artifacts of the early attempts of humans to work together in groups for the mutual good.
I see a ritual like marriage as a dramatic presentation of a spiritual truth which required a material enactment to allow it to be brought into language. The spiritual could not go immediately into words without being made concrete in some way. In the beginning was the Word, but the Word had to be made flesh in order for us to begin to understand it. Marriage is making flesh the covenant between God and His people.
Through the rent flesh of the Christ, our Father has opened the way into His presence. He invites us to come, to speak to Him about our anxieties, to touch Him and to feel His hand upon us. We can hear Him say, “I’ll be right here. Run.”