Few of us are strangers to feeling anxious from time to time. It can creep in and infiltrate into our life and often overwhelmingly so.
Last week, a friend’s daughter had a health scare. Initial tests were done resulting in a call back from her doctor about the results with the dreaded “Urgent” attached to it.
You can only imagine what my friend was feeling. She always says that she excels at “catastrophising” and has to actively keep her anxious thoughts in check with supernatural help. This situation was one of those times when one worrying though tumbles into another leaving us imagining and fearing the worst.
As I spent time bringing this before the Lord, I was reminded of the ever-popular scripture verse quoted in such situations;
Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This verse is one of my favourites and it never fails to reassure me of the promise that I can take it all to God and He promises to give me peace, not as the world gives but His peace which is inexplainable but praise God, for it is real. As we draw near to God and focus on Him and His grace, He gives us His peace which will guard over our hearts and minds.
As I read this my focus was drawn to verse 4; which says “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
It made me think; In light of a trial or loss what is rejoicing supposed to look like?
Scripture is interspersed with numerous directives to praise the Lord regardless of what the circumstances are.
Psalm 34:1 “I will extol the Lord at all times, His praise will always be on my lips.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Psalm 42:11 “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my saviour and my God.”
Psalm 71:14 “But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.”
How does that translate for us?
Is it really possible to rejoice always, in every circumstance?
Am I to deny feeling worry or pain?
Am I to go around with a perpetual smile, suppressing what I feel?
Romans 12:15 says “Weep with those who weep.” And John 11:35 tells us that
Jesus himself wept.
The psalms are filled with a range of emotions that the psalmist expresses; despair, sadness, hope, loneliness and joy. The psalmist does not deny or disallow himself the opportunity to feel what he is feeling but he takes his burden to the Lord. He cries out to God and is looking to God with eyes of faith, reminding himself of who God is and whose he is. And even though there is not an instantaneous alteration in his circumstances, he experiences a change in his heart, he experiences God’s peace and joy right in the midst of his pain.
To rejoice in the Lord always does not mean we do not acknowledge how we feel or minimise, trivialise or repress the pain and heaviness in our heart. We need not feel any guilt that as a Christian it is expected of us to not be struggling with anxious thoughts but we should not wallow in it, not allow to let anxiety take over. As a child of God, we have the privilege to take it all to Him in prayer. Jesus knew the power of prayer. It was enough to sustain His joy, and it is more than enough to sustain ours.
Persistently, repeatedly and continually praising Him shifts our focus to God, who is faithful and is always with us. The Lord is near.
Rejoicing in the Lord means reminding ourselves of who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he will do.
We can rejoice always, knowing that “the joy of the LORD is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). We can rejoice always, knowing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
Our hope is in the Lord, for He is our rock and our salvation (Psalm 62:6).
Place your hope in Jesus, He is forever faithful and worthy of praise, we can count on His presence because He is close to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18).
Rejoicing in the Lord means that there is a new song in our hearts, a song of praise, that celebrates Him — the song of the redeemed — that the agony and afflictions of life cannot drown out. Our circumstances are not the source of our Joy, He is.