Hello there friends!
Hope you're all doing well. If not, Hopefully I can help that word have a little more meaning for you. (Oh yes, my terribly punny self is alive and well today 0:-)
Do you ever find yourselves just Struggling to join in worship? Today's just not your day, perhaps.
Trust me, I know the feeling.
I used to hate Philippians 4:4, that timeless verse that urges people to "Rejoice in the Lord Always." Obviously, you can see MY life, I would say. Lots to rejoice about, loads even. Oh wait, I forgot something in that sentence- NOT.
Then, as if things couldn't get Any better, the writer says "I will say it again, Rejoice!"
At this point, I would just be frustrated. What kind of God could look at this world and seeing all of its depravity, still ask me to rejoice? Even more infuriating was that it this God asked not just robotic rejoicing, but genuine, heart-felt joy!
Hopefully observant readers will have noticed my use of the past tense... I used to hate Philippians 4:4. I used to be angry with the God that would allow a devastated world to exist, and a broken me. Then He asked me to REJOICE? Maybe you can imagine my frustration, my disappointment.
Until I realized that the author of this verse asks us to rejoice not because the world is good or because life is going well- but because of what the next verse says. "the Lord is near." Or, in some translations, "the Lord is at hand."
Can you imagine? Think for a moment. The God of the Universe, King of All Creation, the One who formed you and knew you before you were even conceived... even more, the One who has been working for all of time to reveal His love to man, the One who Gave His SON, He not only LOVES you, but He is near to You. Indeed, He is at hand.
I pictured Him then, standing in front of me.
He'd always been there, staring at me, with His arms wide open.
Then again, next to me. He'd always been there, walking with me.
Ever the gentleman, not to butt in unless asked,
He had quietly been doing what was best for me-- as much as I would permit.
Then again, behind me. He was there also, picking up the pieces,
Watching my back, Urging me forward.
Look, I can't always see God. I don't have Elijah's Open-Heaven-Vision glasses. Because of this, I make mistakes, and I still have moments of doubt. And just because I have had a few open-heaven moments doesn't mean my life is easy; I have had plenty of trouble. But I rejoice, indeed I "take heart" everyday, because there He is. Jesus walks in front of me as my Jehovah-Nissi (my banner), beside me as my companion and guide, and behind me as my rearguard. I look to Him and I find this inner peace and joy just bubbling up inside of me. I find this in all times. Recently, this has included times of grieving a suicide, contemplating the horror of a newborn struggling to survive, feeling exhaustion of finishing another semester, recuperating from health issues, and so much more, both of the good and painful sides of life. In EVERY one of these situations, when I simply acknowledge the Savior who said "I am the truth and the life and the way," He pokes and prods something within me that gives me joy in the midst of trial, pain and even weeping.
He said if I asked, I'd receive. I just never thought it could be this great.
Rejoicing in the Lord always is not just a command, it is my freedom and my right.
He has given me life and life to the full.
I am redeemed and He is within me, He is with me, in front of me, beside me and behind me.
All it took was just a step forward, a raised hand, a spoken word,
and suddenly, my heart would be full, like a river overflowing.
To quote another friend, "let the storms rage on" ( oh yes, I went there. )
this joy can't be taken.
He has overcome the world. He said it Himself.
"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." -John 16:33