Paul’s Got a Secret! Part 3 of 3

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


Paul is content in knowing this secret (or, perhaps, in knowing this secret, he is content): “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Again, as in the original Greek New Testament text, the word translated “content” literally means self-sufficiency, it is one of a most paradoxical kind. For it is derived from power neither initially nor ultimately Paul’s own, but only from God and God alone.

I’d like to be as content as Paul. For, like Paul, I’ve known life’s fullness of highs and lows, things lovely and things terrible. There have been moments when I, in the human terms of the personal satisfactions of physical health, vocational achievement, and economic security have lived on the proverbial “top of the world” and, contrarily, when lacking these and other life’s bounties, I have felt like a modern-day Atlas bearing the weight of the world. Moreover, daily I continue to experience the press of external events, the push of other people, and the pull of my own inner demons (those stubbornly abiding aspects of my being that I least like, indeed, hate). And, yes, I must confess that these things, both outward and inward, oft define for me my sense of self.

Yet I also have known moments when I am unbound and unburdened. Blessed with a joy beyond my imagination to conceive or my power to achieve. Thus, I think, I believe, I know that Paul’s secret, though so paradoxical, is true.

Whenever I honestly acknowledge (for honesty compels my confession that I do not always admit) that I can’t do all things, then I can be content with all things. Whenever I relinquish control (or, more truthfully said, my sense that I am or can be in control), then I can have real control; an authentic equilibrium.

This state of being, in other Pauline terms, I define as the secret of finding power in weakness. By this, I don’t mean possessing the power of patience so to endure the weakness of suffering or, in the words of the poet, to be “bloody, but unbowed.” Neither do I mean the power of God to grant courage in times of fear or clarity in moments of confusion. Nor do I mean that hope, as expressed in Mary’s Song that, as God “brings down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly,” the weak one day will be clothed with power.

No. What I behold in Paul’s message is that weakness is a sign of the power of God…

Power incarnated, made real in the image of God who joins humanity in the weakness of suffering and in that ultimate weakness, humanly speaking, of dying…

Suffering and dying that led to resurrection…

Resurrection pointing to the possibility, the actuality of new life, even now

New life that doesn’t negate the experiences of this world, whether joyful or painful, but rather enables a contentment in the realization that all that this world offers or withholds is not ultimate reality…

Ultimate reality to whom I belong and in whom I truly find myself.

In believing, in knowing this, all of this, there is power. The power of joy. Aye, no matter the circumstance, the power to choose joy.

4 emoticon balls - joy

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

  1. Wow!!!! Thank you Paul for part 3!! I’m just going to embrace the power of Joy!! I hadn’t read this before I spoke last night, but at the end of my presentation a woman whose husband is dying in hospice from Alz asked me how I have such JOY when I’m literally the last person standing for my Mom (without Tim, Renee, Frannie & Diane). I paused for a second and then said “Joy is the only power I have”. To which she replied “Amen”….

    Much love!


  2. What else is there to say, but: Amen to joy!



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