Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4
I have heard it again and again – rejoice! Repeated endlessly by worship leaders, preachers and sympathizers in exhortations, devotionals, sermons – “rejoice” I am told, even if I don’t feel like it. I am tempted to think, is this some kind of denial? How can I rejoice when trials, sorrow, and hardships stare me in the face? Especially now, with the pandemic having claimed the lives of two dear church members, and the “new normal” seeming so abnormal!
Then again, how can I not take Paul’s words to the Philippian church seriously? Does he have an important point to make? My reflections led me to the following thoughts. First, the sorrow and hardships I might experience are not a verdict that God does not love me. On the contrary, his love is never diminished, no matter what I am going through. Nothing, yes, nothing changes God’s love for me. That itself is a reason to rejoice!
Second, I am to rejoice “in the Lord”! In a fallen world, hardships dampen the spirits but “in Christ” there is an inexplicable joy. Where is my focus – to temporary situations or to everlasting victory in Jesus? My focus could become my idol. Sadness and sorrow of the temporary are lousy idols to be worshipping! I might as well trade it for the “joy of the Lord”! And finally, Jesus meets me in every one of my hardships. In his incarnation he understands every one of those gut-wrenching feelings I experience. His presence imparts comfort and provides strength to cope.
Rejoice, indeed, in the grace of Christ. There is every reason to!
Prayer: Lord, I may not understand everything that happens around me, but help me know your grace. While you give me strength to cope, grant me to experience and express your joy in every circumstance. Amen.
By Danny Zachariah