Paul’s Got a Secret! Part 2 of 3

A biblical and personal reflection based on Philippians 4.4-13.


St. Paul Writing His Epistles (1620), Valentin de Boulogne (1594-1632)

“My dear Saint Paul, what, I pray you tell me, is the source of your joy? Meaning no disrespect, but are you mad? Suffering the delusions of a distorted reality? Or a quaint, but no less unrealistic romanticism? Or, perhaps, an impossibly pious religiosity given to flights of hyperbole (as similarly exaggerated, I must confess, as these questions of mine)?”

He looked up from his writing desk, his faint smile and knowing nod indicating to me that he, before and many times from many others, had been on the receiving end of like and equally impolite (even ill-tempered) inquiries.

“My dear Paul, as I have written, ‘I have learned to be content with whatever I have.’ Do you know what I mean?”

Ah, I remember. The Koine Greek term translated “content,” literally, “self-sufficient,” means not being unduly bound or burdened by external events and other people or internal tensions.

“My dear Saint Paul, how do you find this contentment?”

“My dear Paul, again, as I have written, ‘I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret.’”

Again, I resort to the Greek. The word translated “secret” literally means “to be initiated.” To be met and welcomed into a mystery.

Hmmm, mystery. Not a riddle to be resolved by human reason. That is an impossibility. For though wondrous is the human intellect, the fullest fathoming of mystery is beyond its reach. Nevertheless, mystery is a reality that can be lived.

“My dear Saint Paul, now, tell me, please, what is this secret?”

“My dear Paul, it is this. Simply, profoundly this. Once again, as I have written, ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’”


Illustration: St. Paul Writing His Epistles (1620), Valentin de Boulogne (1594-1632)

2 thoughts on “Paul’s Got a Secret! Part 2 of 3

  1. Sooooo Amen for the secret!! We are absolutely strengthened by our strength. For me there are moments, thankfully not days, where I find it hard to rely on my faith to get me through.

    I’m really happy that I was born with this JOY and I try my best to share it with others AND to really search deep to uncover it when it’s hiding from me.

    So what happens in part 3?

    Much love


  2. The Apostle Paul’s secret, I think, bears an immutable degree of paradox. On the one hand, he testifies to (tells us) what it is: “I can do all things through (Christ) who strengthens me.” On the other hand, tho’ he reveals the secret (which, in common terms, means it’s no longer unknown), it remains secreted from human consciousness and human will, for we humans, typically, characteristically so self-driven, oft live and move and have our beings structured around, as the prayer of confession states it, “the devices and desires of our own hearts.” Hence, tho’ Christ, in his living and dying and rising, is our strength, he, oft enough, is the last person to whom we (well, okay, as I’m wont to say, I’ll put it on myself)…I turn for strength or guidance or, even salvation. It is when and only when I, as that other olden adage puts it, “let go and let God” that the secret becomes real, thus, known in my life, thus, no longer a secret.

    At least, this is how I think…I believe it works in my life.



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