I have a cheery bright green, chalkboard sign that sits atop my TV armoire in the living room. For a while now I have had this Bible verse written on it, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4
I know from experience that it is much easier to rejoice when life is pleasant and the sun is shining. It feels good to rejoice when we have all of our ducks in a row. It's fun to rejoice when we have a great job, two kids, a picket fence and the "American Dream." I'm sorry I couldn't help but, insert a little sarcasm there. We pat ourselves on the back when we muster up the strength to rejoice on a relatively tough day...like when we break a nail or sleep through our alarm clock. hehe
On the other hand, there have been many times in my life that I have wrestled with this verse. How can I rejoice today Lord when I feel so broken? How can I rejoice today when I feel so weary that lifting my head from this pillow feels like a marathon? How can I rejoice always when I see so much pain and suffering? How can I rejoice when someone I loved dearly was killed tragically? How can I rejoice when people that I care about are struggling with chronic illnesses? How do I rejoice when you haven't brought deliverance or healing yet?
I think that many of us will have to wrestle with these questions at some point or another and the answers that God gives each of us might be a little different. God has a supernatural way of ministering to each of our hearts according to what HE alone knows that we need to be filled and healed.
I've learned that rejoicing doesn't always look like a radiant smile or a twirly dance with a long purple ribbon (though it can:). I've learned that I can rejoice while bawling tears of sorrow. I've learned that I can rejoice while staring at what looks like a endless dark tunnel with so little light. I've learned that I can rejoice while laying in bed too weary to lift my head. I've learned that I can rejoice when my heart is in pieces.
For me, rejoicing looks like praise and I have experienced nothing in all the world more powerful than praising God in the midst of pain and sorrow. I've experienced nothing more healing than praise in the midst of brokenness. I have felt supernatural comfort while praising God through heartache. I have been awed by how praise brings strength to my weary bones and places hope back in my despairing spirit. I have witnessed the restoring power of praise. For me, rejoicing looks like praise, praise sounds like giving thanks and there is always something to be thankful for.
"Lord I thank you for the beauty of the rising sun and the way it's warm light brings life to all and the birth of a new day which gives us a fresh start. I thank you for my health. Thank you that my arms are strong and that I can wrap them around my little girl and give her a big love hug every day. Thank you that my eyes are thriving and that I get to see the glorious things that you have created. How could I ever tire of gazing upon the towering mountain tops or the vast and powerful seas? How could I ever tire of gazing upon the grassy fields sprinkled with beautiful wild flowers? How could I ever tire of watching the birds soar magnificently with your wind beneath their wings? Thank you Lord for my husband and for his strength to persevere and endure. Thank you Lord for my beautiful home that is perfectly climate controlled. Thank you Lord for my thriving daughter whose smile truly is as bright as a sunrise. Thank you for teaching me to rest in you and that I don't have to strive. Thank you for holding me when I am to weak to walk. Thank you for being with me at my darkest and for never leaving me. Jesus I love you. Jesus I praise you. Jesus I trust you. Jesus I will wait on you. Jesus I know that there is no one who loves me like you do. Thank you for loving me."
Something powerful happens when we rejoice and make a habit of rejoicing in all circumstances.
Day by day we rise from the ashes. Darkness crumbles away as God's glorious light forces it to retreat. We are set free.