Ever wake up and feel like not rejoicing? Ever have a week where you would rather not speak to anyone or utter a sound, let a lone rejoice? Let me comfort you with these words, “You are not alone.” There have been days, maybe even a season, that I did not feel like rejoicing because I felt the world around me was against me. This thing called life was hard and I just didn’t have the get up and go at ’em attitude. I would rather have sung the glums and ate chopped liver than to let myself rejoice. My attitude stunk and I left that odor expel from my pores affecting other’s personal spaces. So, again, let me comfort you and say, “If you are feeling that way – you are not alone. Chances are your very own pastor (yes, go ahead and gasp- he or she isn’t perfect), mom, dad, sister, brother, cousin, friend, neighbor, teacher, principal, employer and fellow employees and anyone else that has breath to breathe has felt this same way. Tough stuff happens, enough said.”
But, God… oh, yes, there are those infamous words, but God! Two precious words that remind me and help me to push through and find it in me to rejoice! I may not feel like it and I might not want to – I can even in a thirty something year old body find the inner two year old who wants to stamp her feet, whine, cry and even wail. That child who can point fingers, blame others and can throw a full fledge tantrum – I think that child is somewhere in all of us- the Word calls it our flesh. But the Word never fails, just like God never fails, he is always gently leading us as the good Shepherd. Yes, us sheep, that seem to stray off the path, he lovingly nudges us to follow. That desire is in us to follow, we just have to stop and listen to the voice then choose to follow.
But God in his Word tells us to Rejoice! And then it is repeated in the same sentence, “…I will say it again, ‘Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). I am not a theologian and I do not pretend to be, I am just a chick that is in love with a God who loves me more. I am enthralled by his Words and they light up my life.. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love to hear, “You are the apple of my eye,” (Zechariah 2:8). In my fascination and delight of knowing that God loves me despite me, that his love is neverending – how can I not find it in me to rejoice? I must rejoice despite trials, hard times, sad times, lonely times, desperate times and even depressed times. Even when I do all right and everything goes wrong, I must find it in me to rejoice! I will say it again…. REJOICE!
Paul in the Book of Philippians is giving his final exhortation, he begins by saying: “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends,” (Philippians 4:1). What are we standing firm in? Paul is telling us to stand firm despite our present struggles. Stand firm and hold on, set your minds on heavenly things. And there in the black and white text of my NIV Bible I get it – as though the letters dance along the page and leap only to swirl through my brain and waltz in my heart – the connection that I and maybe you need, is an answer. How do I rejoice in my present struggle when I don’t feel like, when my world seems like it is falling apart and the days seem long and the time seems slow and I feel like I’m the only one?
I set my mind on heavenly things….. (Philppians 3:20-21)
When I set my mind on things that are temporary, a sense of defeat, deflate and discouragement creep in sucking life, energy and joy. But when I turn upward and look past the clouds and search into the heavenly realms, my heart and mind tango with this beautiful song that there is more and I can rejoice.
If I am to rejoice, how does it come about? The answer comes from Philippians 4:5-7. I am going to list them in order which they appear in the Bible.
- Let your gentleness be evident to all.
Show those around you, whomever they are, your gentleness. May people think, “I cannot believe her gentleness despite her heartache or cicrumstance (or whatever has you chained to be downcast).”
- The Lord is near.
Remember you are not alone. The Lord is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you, you are the apple of his eye!
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.
Let the worries flow from you up to heaven in the form of prayer and petitions – asking God for help. When we can stop and let go of our natural tendency to control the unknowns, we make room for peace to flood our hearts and take up the vacancy. When we can stop and be thankful we can let joy return to the void places that held brokenness and rejuvenate the heart. We can rest assured that when we present our prayers and petitions, our requests, to God they do not go unheard. He hears every one of them and has seen every tear. He feels your heartache and the weight of your disappointments. Yet, he says, “Rejoice!” and the Holy Spirit echoes, “Rejoice!” and our inner spiritual man says, “Rejoice!”
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, ‘Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
Rejoicing keeps my mind focus on heaven, my eternal future, not on things that are temporal and that one day will pass away with this Earth. It keeps me moving forward, pressing forward and I keep in the forefront of my mind that all that I have gives me reason to rejoice and I let God move in those areas where I hurt, I let go of what keeps me back from seeing Him wholeheartedly.
Paul gives us a filter to help us do exactly what he is preaching to those he loves, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things….. And the peace of God will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9) What is Paul telling me? That if I filter my thoughts, emotions, words, attitudes through this purifier of a scripture and stand firm focusing on what is yet to come I will receive peace.
To rejoice welcomes peace. The connection of one to the other, the dots connecting from one to two leads us somewhere a final picture of finding peace through the process of rejoicing.
May the God of peace be with you, in you and expel from you as your rejoice in him despite your present struggles.