What I’m Thinking: Pollyanna Paul

For a moment in the letter to the Philippians, Paul sounds like, well, Pollyanna. Which seems very wrong.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Philippians 4:1-9). It includes these famous words:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:4-5 (NRSV)

Rejoice in the Lord always.

I’ll be honest. As I read these words in these times, the first name that comes to mind is not Paul. It’s Pollyanna (I haven’t actually seen that movie). Pollyanna to me has meant for years that one focuses so much on the good things that one ignores or discounts or even discredits the hardships, the sufferings, the losses, the griefs. It seems odd to think of the Apostle Paul as a Pollyanna, especially after you’ve read Second Corinthians.

Paul wrote these words, in fact, while imprisoned.

Paul was no Pollyanna. Paul was, however, aware of both the blessings and the curses of human life. There in his imprisonment he was still able to see, to apprehend, to appreciate what there was around him: the people with whom he worked and whom he loved; the folks who had come to join him in imprisonment in order to be of aid to him. I can even imagine the Apostle Paul getting up early in the morning – and I hope his window faced east – so that he could watch the sun rise.

We do not need to be told in these days how stressful, how dangerous, how hard the world can be. The world, however, is also gentle and kind and loving. And so I offer you these words of Paul, written from his prison cell and carried over the centuries to us. May they be, if not a comfort, at least an open door or an open window so that God’s beauty may also move within your soul.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of pride, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8 NRSV

They are also real. Let them work within you and make you strong for the trials and the hardships.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: | Posted on October 5, 2020

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