by Syd Hielema

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. —Psalm 119:105

It was a dark, cold, and snowy Saturday night (yes, I know, it sounds like Snoopy starting his novel yet again), and I was driving a vanload of university student worship leaders home from the Calvin Worship Symposium. We had just crossed the border from Michigan into Ontario, and the students were dozing, when the team leader said, “How about we all recite one of our favorite Bible verses and tell why it’s one of our favorites?”

The group agreed.

Michael, the team leader, began. “You all know that last year I had to skip a semester of school because of my issues with depression and anxiety. During that time, Philippians 4 became my go-to chapter every day, especially the verse where Paul writes, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’” (vv. 6-7). He then continued by describing how his mom had lived by that verse during her season of cancer treatments five years earlier, and how she had helped him lean into the power and comfort of Paul’s teaching.

One by one, other students recited their verses and described the impact each had upon their lives. Eventually it was my turn: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor. 12:8-9). I described for them how my deepest life lessons were learned during times of struggle, failure, sorrow, and weakness, and that during such seasons it was as if my life became softened clay that the master potter was able to begin to reshape again toward the contours of grace.

The last person finished telling her story just as we pulled into the university parking lot. I dropped the students off and continued home alone, moved by the conversation we had just shared.

Each one had described a specific way in which Scripture intersected with his or her life story.  In so doing, we recognized that we live “inside the Book,” shaped by the grand story of God’s faithfulness, climaxed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each one had modeled the second Building Block of Faith: “I know and understand.”

In addition, as we shared our stories in a warm, cozy van navigating a wintry night, we declared, “We belong to the Author of this grand narrative, and as we share our own stories, we belong to one another as well.”

I was struck by the quiet peacefulness the group embodied as I dropped them off, and I realized that Paul was right: “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”