4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7
There are so many times when I feel like rejoicing. A graduation for a family member, a birthday party for a friend, even when I get home at the end of a long day to see Jules and Caleb playing on the floor… those are all great reasons to rejoice. And that’s when most of us wait to rejoice. During the good times, the parties, the sweet moments of life…
But Paul writes that we should “Rejoice in the Lord, always!” And he is so emphatic about it that he repeats himself, “I say it again, rejoice!”
Every situation… good, bad – happy times, sad times – triumphs and tragedies… we are supposed to rejoice. That may seem a bit stupid, especially when we consider times of great tragedy and loss. When a dear family member dies, or we lose our jobs or homes. But our rejoicing is not for a lack of a reason. Paul says, “Rejoice IN THE LORD!” Then in 6-7 he says how that joy comes about in our lives… through the prayers and petitions (with thanksgiving) we offer to God. He will guard our hearts and minds in Christ, and so in situation where we shouldn’t be able to rejoice we can, because God’s peace is on us.
This is easier said than done, though. I know from firsthand experience. Over the last three years my family and I have walked through some pretty dark valleys. We have trudged through stressful situations and anxiety-ridden situations. We have watched others in our immediate circle of friends and family struggle, and I’ll admit there have been times where I didn’t want the “peace of God” I didn’t want the “joy of the Lord”. I wanted to stew and get angry and bitter.
Rejoicing, however, doesn’t mean a false sense of “happy” as some Christians like to display. It doesn’t mean denying the problem. It doesn’t even mean “pulling ourselves” up by our bootstraps… it doesn’t mean any of those things because all of those things focus on me – how am I dealing with this problem, or that problem.
Instead, I think means admitting our weaknesses, heartaches, brokenness and hurting – maybe even leaning into those things – and then crying out to our God who is faithful to hear us and respond.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I [Paul] was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10