“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS; AGAIN I WILL SAY, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:2-9 ESV (emphasis mine)
Our older 5 children will remember the summer we memorized the book of Philippians. Though I’ve memorized other scripture before and since, it comes as no great surprise that THAT book is the one that comes to mind more often than any other. It is one of Paul’s most personal letters and in it we are shown and told how to have joy, even while suffering.
I’ve a confession to make. I’ve not been regular in any sense of that word in my devotions and yesterday morning was the first in a long while…..and where did I find myself?
I recall times in church, a smiling, microphone-wielding pastor would walk among the congregants in search of someone who had a “word of praise”. What was shared was great stuff…..all of it. A new job, a raise, healing of an illness, a restored relationship. I know we are admonished to think on the good things, however I recall my own often troubled thoughts as I watched and listened…..what if we are not in a good place? What if there didn’t seem to be anything “worthy” of praise? Though I know it wasn’t the intent, I sometimes felt as though this sharing of good stuff fed into a misconception that God is good…..when good things are happening. What I wanted to hear was someone who would rise up and say “there is nothing going well for me; I have life, but honestly? It’s flippin’ hard right now…..I lost my job….my spouse has received a terrible diagnosis….my kids are out of control….the days drag on and my mind is filled with doubt and worry…..I sometimes wish it would just all end! BUT despite all of that; despite the pain and the hurt and the doubt and the really crappy circumstances, I just can’t sit here. My circumstances have nothing to do with the goodness or greatness of God; they don’t change who he is or who what he has done for me and though I seem to have more questions than answers right now, I trust him and I know that he has a reason for all of this and, eventually, it will be for his glory. So though I’m sick and I’m tired, I have to stand and declare that God IS good.”
I’ve since thought that perhaps I’m the one who should have shared that; it has, at times, been my testimony.
Rejoice in the Lord……always; again I will say, Rejoice.
I have a vivid recollection of a few times in my own life when we were dealing with some really crappy stuff. That verse entered my thoughts and through gut-wrenching sobs, I intentionally rejoiced….I’m sure that this is the “sacrifice of praise” that means oh so much more to the heart of God than the bland “thanks” I offer, or don’t, for God’s daily blessings. It is easy to rejoice and be thankful in the good times, but am I, really?? Smooth travels don’t tend to turn my mind to God or to rejoicing or being thankfulness. My faith has been built, usually while I’m kicking and screaming, in the midst of the fire; in the trials and storms of life.
I like the last half of the last sentence: practice these things. It’s reassuring. We’re not expected to get this right….whew.
Rejoice. Pray with thanksgiving. Think on the good things. Practice.