In the midst of this global pandemic not many people are happy, and for good reason. Almost nobody wants to stay at home day after day, no working, no eating at your favorite place, no trips to the gym… Ugh…
I am certainly not happy about this episode but I am learning to be content. Complaining, hand-ringing, blaming, worrying, and other negative responses do nothing to change the situation at hand. There is a far better alternative. Choose JOY!
Happiness is at best fleeting because it depends on “happenings”. The happiest person you know can go from super happy to deep depression in moments. Answering one phone call, seeing one news story on TV, or one bad move in traffic kicks happiness to the street.
Joy, is not dependent on circumstances. Joy is given to combat those less than happy circumstances. In sickness, in poverty, in disappointment, in persecution, in being rejected by someone you love, in business failure…. You fill in the blanks from the story of your life. No circumstance can squash joy.
The ancient words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians at Philippi concerning this topic can inform us about how to live in the face of dire circumstances today and tomorrow.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:4-7 ESV
It is interesting that the great apostle penned these hopeful words from his prison cell in Rome to Christians who lived in a city where he had been beaten and imprisoned on a previous visit. His letter was to encourage and equip people he loved and to help guard them from false teaching, false gods, and discouragement.
Joy is a choice! You can decide right now where you sit or stand to experience joy in the Lord. Paul begins this section of his letter to his friends with a command, “Rejoice in the Lord always“. Joy is not tied to the happenings of every day life, but is only found in our confidence and trust in our Lord. God is saying right now to me, and to you, “Rejoice in me”, the question is will we obey? Will we follow our natural inclination and express our frustrations with loud complaining when things don’t go our way? Or, will we try a new path by becoming known for our “reasonableness“? Perhaps a better translation is “gentleness”. When disappointment rears it’s ugly head will we respond calmly? Or quickly and loudly state our disappointment in no uncertain terms? We do have a choice…
God is with us! Paul said it this way, “The Lord is at hand“. If you are a faith-follower of Jesus God lives in you every moment of every day. The Holy Spirit is God in you all the time. And even if you are not a Christian, the Lord is near you too. There is no place you can go that God is not there, He is as close as He can be waiting for you to embrace Him in simple trust.
God’s constant presence should produce in us boldness in the face of trouble. Whatever circumstances comes at us “the Lord is at hand“. If we train ourselves to live moment by moment in the reality of God’s presence with us life will take on a new luster and fear will flee.
God has given us some homework! In the passage above God tells us exactly what to do and not to do to get in on this Joy thing.
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Have a measured response to trouble. Don’t be anxious! Don’t worry! Don’t overthink your circumstances. Recently my wife informed me that a sizable portion of our retirement income would no longer be coming in the mail due to a technicality and a contract change. When she finished telling me the news in detail I said to her, “I’ll tell you something I’m not going to do”. “What?” she replied. “Worry” was my answer. And she agreed that we live in the presence and power of the almighty and we will simply trust him. A couple of days later Carol called me to give me the exciting news that the investment company had reversed it’s decision and our money will keep coming on time. This time I got it right. (disclaimer: sometimes I fret a while first….)
Tell God about your troubles. Nothing is excluded, if it bothers you God is interested and concerned. In “everything” is pretty inclusive, nothing is left out. This instruction to pray is a great lesson. There are three components to Paul’s command about going to God with our cares.
- Pray. Praying is simply asking. All through the Bible prayers are always asking and the answer is always receiving. Just tell God what you want.
- Supplication. This is an interesting biblical word that is always tied to asking God, prayer, but it is more about the disposition of the one who is praying. It suggests recognizing the majesty of our sovereign God and coming to ask in humility. God is God I am not. I am coming to God asking for help but not as one who is entitled as a spoiled child would ask.
- Thanksgiving. Giving thanks is always good but it is not prayer. Many times in scripture thanksgiving accompanies prayer but it is not prayer. Prayer is asking. Giving God our thanks is not asking but acknowledging His goodness and grace toward us.
It is my habit to begin every prayer, both public and private, by giving God thanks for all that I am and what I have been given by his open grace filled hand. When trouble comes, and it will, simply ask God, be humble as you ask, and be thankful for what you have and what God has already done for you and what He will do in the future.
God is at work….all the time! If or when we follow God’s prescription for anxiety and despair something wonderful happens. The peace of God that we humans are not equipped to even understand will “guard” our hearts and our “minds”. Wow, what a tremendous promise from God. How often will this work? Every time we do what God says to do.
Our hearts and our minds are guarded! Doubt? No, you can’t come in, you are not welcome. Worry? No admittance. You are not welcome either. What a beautiful promise God has given to us.
Rejoice! This is God’s formula for ongoing joy for everyday, in every circumstance living.
For your joy,