On my prayer walk yesterday morning (which I always post on my Instagram stories), we started talking about what it truly means to rejoice when we suffer. Honestly, most of the time when I hear that sentiment, I want to barf. And an angry barf, you know? Nobody wants to be told to rejoice when they're in hell. It's ridiculous! But as I mentioned on Insta, I've got some deeply loved people in my life suffering, so I'm forced to think about one of God's biggest encouragements/commands about it.
We can't get away from hard stuff; it's everywhere we look. I suppose that's why God mentions it over and over again in his word. James talks about it. So do Paul and Peter, but my favorite is probably Habakkuk:
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (3:17-19)
How does someone get to this place? A place where there seems to be nothing but failure, loss and emptiness, yet they rejoice? I think the answer comes at the very end of Habakkuk's words: I will be joyful; the sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes me surefooted. . ."
I rejoice by choosing it. Most people's default thinking is to look at the hard and see the hard. Think about the hard. Ruminate on the hard. If we're going to rejoice instead, we will have to choose it. It will be conscious and it will be active. It will also probably be over and over again.
I rejoice by choosing truth. In Romans, God promises to craft good out of everything for people who love him. I love him. You love him, so we must actively choose to believe the truth that he will make something beautiful and good out of the present crap. He also promises he is our strength, he is always with us and will never leave us, he is powerful, he is able and willing, and he will enable us to persevere and conquer. If we can intentionally turn our thoughts from how much something hurts or scares us to these truths, we will be more joyful. A heart choosing truth is always more at peace.
I rejoice by knowing this is NOT the end of the story. Have you seen those tattoos of semi-colons? They're adorbs but they're also expressing this thought beautifully. Life isn't over. There is not a period until you are dead in the grave. There is only a semi-colon. You may be in a torturous season, but don't throw out a period and plop down! Stake a semi-colon in the ground and continue on to see what God will make out of this season! Refuse to believe this is the end of the story. This is the part of the narrative that may be the most painful, but it is also the part that shows best that God is attentive, faithful, loving and victorious! Don't quit before you see the freedom.
I rejoice when my friend cannot. Sometimes someone is so far in the dark weeds of hell they just can't rejoice. Let's be the friends who, because we can see the truth more clearly, pray it over our people. They may not be ready to hear truth (and that's okay), and they may just need us to be present with them, but in the quietness of our own spaces, can we vow to pray for them when they cannot? How sweet for them to know that though they may barely be able to make it through their day sane, someone is thinking about them and praying for them. That in itself will bring joy.
I'm praying for our little community here . . . that as we choose truth, we would find a peace and joy we would never have thought possible. Have an intentionally joyful day!
I Romans 5:8, God .