When I was in college, I had what I called “blah” days. For no apparent reason, I felt down and lethargic. Looking back, I wish I had explored this more, maybe talked to a counselor, and perhaps it was just hormonal.
A song based on various psalms was popular at the time:
I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart I will enter his courts with praise I will say “this is the day that the Lord has made” I will rejoice for he has made me glad He has made me glad, oh, he has made me glad I will rejoice for he has made me glad.
And so, choosing to rejoice, I sang those words over and over during my “blah” days. And I found that things looked up.*
After my dear friend Lori died and I was tired and weepy and unmotivated to work, I took extra time to rest and take care of myself. After a week or two of puttering around my house (for that is what rejuvenates me), the Holy Spirit led me to some songs** about joy. It was time to choose to rejoice.
And now, I am sad again. Sad because someone I love has chosen the way of bondage. And like before, the Spirit challenges me to apply the Apostle Paul’s words:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!Philippians 4:4
What did the Philippians have to rejoice about? After all, Paul was addressing the quarrel of Syntyche and Euodia. He knew that conflict, sin and lack of forgiveness rob joy from our lives. How could Paul’s “companion” rejoice while watching his sisters fight? How can I rejoice when someone I love chooses to walk away from God?
Rejoice means to be glad, happy, full of cheer, and well off. Paul tells us to rejoice often about many things but only in Philippians are we instructed to rejoice in the Lord.
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! Philippians 3:1a (NIV)
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Philippians 4:10a (NIV)
Paul’s specific mention of what to rejoice in implies there are other things I may turn to in order to find joy. For me, I most naturally rejoice where I am comfortable, feel safe, am at peace with those around me and when they are behaving as I’d like them to. But oftentimes, real pain and conflict is brewing under the surface. And so Paul tells us that only in God is true joy. Spurgeon says this about verse four:
“I am glad that we do not know what the quarrel was about; I am usually thankful for ignorance on such subjects;—but as a cure for disagreements, the apostle says, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ People who are very happy, especially those who are very happy in the Lord, are not apt either to give offense or to take offense. Their minds are so sweetly occupied with higher things, that they are not easily distracted by the little troubles which naturally arise among such imperfect creatures as we are. Joy in the Lord is the cure for all discord.”Charles Spurgeon
So how do I find joy in my current situation? First I focus on the word “will.” I WILL rejoice. I will choose to find some joy in this situation. Choosing to be glad is a discipline that helps overcome sadness or loss. It gets me out of my doldrums. I WILL rejoice.
And secondly, I focus on the object of my joy—the Lord. What do I have to rejoice about in the Lord? He is sovereign. He is big. He is not caught off guard. He loves perfectly all who reject him or distort him. He woos and pursues. He hears my cries. He answers prayer. He runs after the one who is lost. He is faithful and good. I can rest in his unfailing love. I choose to exercise abiding confidence in the sovereignty and bigness of God.
And so I pray:
I will be glad that You are able to do immeasurable more than I could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)! I will be happy that You are sovereign and bigger than any trial or obstacle. Nothing is impossible for You (Luke 1:37). I will rejoice that You have paid for sin on the cross and that You offer forgiveness to all who accept it (Ephesians 2:8-9). I will be glad that Your peace overcomes conflict (2 Corinthians 13:11). I will be happy that You continue to pursue those who reject or distort You and that Your love is unfailing and unchanging (I John 3:1, Luke 15:4). I will rejoice that You are the king over all the earth (Psalm 47:2) and that Your plans will always be accomplished (Isaiah 48:10). I will rejoice that You have overcome evil and that Your truth and goodness will ultimately prevail (Romans 16:20). I will be well off because You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and do not treat us as our sins deserve (Ps 103:8-12). I will be glad that You discipline those You love (Proverbs 3:12). I will rejoice that You are the God of all comfort who comforts me in my troubles (2 Corinthians 1:4).
How can you choose to rejoice in the Lord today?
What other statements about the Lord can you make that will bring joy to your situation today?
*Of course, I am not talking about a diagnosed depression or anxiety—for that, please get professional help.