Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rejoice in the Lord Always

"Rejoice in the Lord always," writes St. Paul in Phil. 4:4 (NIV). "I will say it again: Rejoice!"

Maybe Paul found it necessary to say it twice because we so easily forget. Things--little things and big--go wrong every day; and when they do, human nature seems to temporarily lose all ability to see anything good in life. Many of us let a rude clerk, a honking horn, a long wait, or a bumped elbow ruin the next several hours. Even a real tragedy often gets more emotional energy than it deserves; most of us have met people who are still crying or sulking over something that happened thirty years ago, and who have long since used up everyone else's sympathy.

Nor do we necessarily rejoice properly when things go exceptionally well. The employee who has just received a raise and an extra week's vacation with pay, the lottery winner, the newly engaged couple may all be bubbling over with delight: but how many of them are actually rejoicing in the Lord, rather than in the circumstance? Most of us actually forget God faster in the good times than in the bad. When everything is going wrong, we cry out for help; after we get it, we say a quick "thank You" and go back to enjoying life's gifts with hardly a thought to the Giver. Few of us are as spiritually mature as the young man who said, "I prayed for months that my mother would be healed of cancer, and now that she has been, I intend to spend an equal amount of prayer time thanking God."

For too many of us, our level of what we call joy always matches life's circumstances: up one day and down the next. If we want to achieve consistent, deep joy, we have to get our minds off circumstances and onto the Lord, Who never changes and Who is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).

When life fills with obvious blessings,
And vigorous health is your lot,
Content yourself not with mere pleasure,
But rejoice in your Heavenly treasure,
Lest the Lord, Who gives all, be forgot.

When life is a maze of frustration,
And everything seems to go wrong,
Do not whine that you deserve better,
But praise God, Who released your sin's fetter,
And rejoice in His grace with a song.

When tragedy ruins all you hoped for,
And life seems too heavy to bear,
Do not let despairing consume you,
But rejoice in the Lord, Who renews you,
And Who has better answers to prayer.

No life is an endless vacation;
We all climb a boulder-strewn trail.
But, whether in laughter or weeping,
Find your joy in the Lord, Who is keeping
Heavenly blessings that never can fail.

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