Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. Philippians 4:4
This verse is one of those “feel good” verses I like to spit out when I’m happy and things are going well. I’m getting better and better at calling out in thanks for every good thing. It’s been a consciences effort over the past many months to really remind myself to thank him and recognize the million moments when he’s working powerfully in my life. Lately though I’ve been asked to look at this verse through a different lens.
The truth about this verse is that it was written by St. Paul. The hit me over the head truth of this verse is that it was written while he was in prison awaiting his martyrdom. From the darkness, the squalor, the stench, the most unfortunate, uncomfortable and undeserved location, he cried out for us to rejoice as he was at that very moment. He didn’t say it once, but twice; rejoice! Now, I’ve been in some pretty dark, complicated, painful spots but I’ve got nothin to compare to this…not even close. Praying with this verse has brought to mind some things I need to remember about rejoicing, especially when it’s the last thing on my mind.
Being a disciple means saying YES to God. When we say yes, it’s usually because we want to grow closer to him and experience his powerful grace. We sign up for the good stuff! How conveniently and quickly we forget about the hard or bad that comes with the good. God shows us how this works in his creation again and again. He put thorns with roses and cobs with sweet corn and mosquitos with summer. We’ve lived it and seen it dozens of times but we are always shocked when the suffering and hardship come. The Apostles said yes to Jesus and talk about a roller-coaster ride that yes was. Every one of them endured trial, hardship, persecution and all but one faced martyrdom. Amazingly, they all listed to Paul and did it all while rejoicing, and for what? For eternal peace, freedom and absolute perfection.
These thoughts served as a sort of “buck up butter-cup” kind of experience in Adoration a couple of weeks ago. I was lamenting about people who were sick and troubles and woes we are facing as a community, a church and as a nation. Wouldn’t you know it, this was exactly the verse he led me to. When I look at all the stuff I was made heavy-hearted by, I realized I have absolutely no control over any of it and the only thing I could do was lift it up to him and rejoice! Rejoice not that these things were happening, but rejoice because I trust he’s working in all of it.
Embracing hardship cheerfully isn’t something we generally put on our daily to-do list but I suppose it really should be. Following St. Paul’s advice in his letter to the Philippians I decided to give it a try. I have a really bum knee and long walks through the airport and standing to deliver an all day training is pretty awful. Last week when I went to Texas, I parked my car at at the airport and said, “Lord, I thank you for this lousy hurting knee. I will praise you and rejoice in the pain and I offer this suffering to you. I rejoice in the pain in the hopes that you will bless someone in great need with the pain I offer you.” And of course because I can be sassy, I added, “And Lord, If I’m gonna stand and do one evening and two full days of training, I need you to take some of the pain away during those hours. If you could part the Red Sea, I know you can manage the pain for a couple days.” It was sort of an experiment but he was so faithful and mighty and lovingly answered my prayer. Through the prompting of the Holy Spirit I rejoiced when it didn’t hurt so much and then again when I got home and it did. His power is overwhelming! Give it a try, rejoice in the middle of something awful or painful that’s going on in your life. He will be waiting to meet you in the middle of it.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things going on in your life that are hard to rejoice in. Write or say the words; Lord, help me rejoice in_____.
Blessings on your day!
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