“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice!” (4 cf. I Th. 5:16-18) Not many can say that they suffered like Paul, but the Lord sustained him throughout it all, and since it was for the Lord, he rejoiced that this was the case. He did not rejoice in suffering per se, either as a masochist or a sadist. It was always “in the Lord.” We should also note that being ‘in Christ’ was paramount for Paul, as we come and rejoice also in the Father and the Spirit ‘in’ Him. It is the Lord, through the indwelling of the Spirit, that we are able to be gentle toward all people – even our enemies. The Lord is always “at hand.” (5 cf. 4:1 and II Cor. 10:1)
“Be anxious for nothing.” (6a cf. Mt. 6:25) I think that it is possible to misunderstand these words. As one who has physiological reasons for what we call ‘anxiety’, which can and should be addressed medicinally, I believe what Paul is referring to gets to the spiritual core of who we are in Christ. Of course, if we pray according to God’s will in his word, we have every assurance that he will answer to our needs, provided we add thanksgiving (6b). The latter shows that we understand where our help ultimately comes from. It is not the absence of struggles or suffering, but peace in the midst of all circumstances (7a cf. Jn. 14:27).
Through thanksgiving we can have his peace. “Surpassing all understanding” is Paul’s way of saying that it comes by revelation, and not by our imaginations (7b). Certainly, it includes the whole person – body and soul, emotions but also mind. In fact, it is this revelatory knowledge which guards our “hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (7c) Having noted this, it is nevertheless true that we often do not understand why we are going through certain struggles or sufferings when we are in the midst of them, and we can still have this peace, especially during these times, if we place all our trust in Him.