Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice!
I am really bad at this.
And until this week, I didn’t really think about it being a command. But maybe it is. As Paul is writing from a dark place (house arrest in Rome) all about joy in his letter to the Philippians, I don’t think I can excuse my failures to rejoice as a result of my circumstances. I’ve got nothing on Paul.
As I read these words I was struck by how similar it sounds to I Thessalonians 5:17:
“Pray without ceasing.”
I struggle with that one, too.
And the next verse (I Thess. 5:18):
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
We just finished Philippians in my Bible study. Actually, tomorrow is our last meeting for the year. And the commentary on Philippians 3 had some lovely words that struck me about rejoicing.
Rejoicing in the Lord fixes the mind on the only real source of joy and comfort–Jesus Christ. This gives perspective to life. We must resist the tendency to rely too much on God’s good gifts of health, financial security, the love of family and friends. To set affections on the gifts of God rather than on God Himself is to court disaster, for the gifts are temporal and subject to change. When believers rejoice in the Lord, they can thank Him for all His goodness and appreciate all He has given without basing happiness on the gifts.
I can’t remember the last time I rejoiced in the Lord simply because he is the Lord.
I find that when I need to learn something God likes to show it to me in a cascade of ways all at one time. So it was no surprise that that evening (April 29) I read the following from Sarah Young’s book Jesus Calling (written as though Jesus is speaking):
Let Me teach you thankfulness. Begin by acknowledging that everything–all your possessions and all that you are–belongs to Me. The dawning of each new day is a gift from Me, not to be taken for granted. The earth is vibrantly alive with my blessings, giving vivid testimony to My Presence. If you slow down your pace of life, you can find Me anywhere. . . . The secret of being thankful is learning to see everything from My perspective. My world is your classroom. My Word is a lamp to your feet and a light for your path.
I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience, for several months now. She is the author of the book “1000 Gifts,” and she recommends daily giving thanks to God for what we have and who he is and what he is doing in our life (even things that hurt). I’ve been thinking for a while that I should really do that, but I haven’t been motivated to actually start. So I started a twitter account just to note my thanks. I’ll try to put in three things a day that I am thankful for; they’ll show up on the side of my blog and hopefully help keep me accountable. Anyway, I’m putting them there so I will have a record I can refer to and because I don’t blog consistently enough to put them in my posts.
Maybe making a conscious note of thanksgiving will help me to better rejoice in the Lord, to grow in my faith, and to see beyond my circumstances (which so often feel dark and painful). Maybe thankfulness and rejoicing will help me truly lay my pain and burden at the foot of the cross.