I just got back from visiting my mom for the weekend, so this post is going to be a bit late. On my drive home, I spent a little time praying, listening to music and thinking about this idea of rejoicing always. Like I have mentioned before, it seems to be much easier to rejoice when things are going smoothly.
Before I got on the road this morning my daughter texted me to let me know my grandson had been up most of the night vomiting. I was trying to get on the road early so I would be there to pick him up from school, now I didn't have to since she would be staying home from work to take care of him.
It is hard for my girl. She is a single mom and she relies heavily on me to help with childcare and other things that some times overwhelm her. As I drove through the beautiful fall landscape I found myself praising God for that moment. The colors were absolutely stunning. Dark reds, bright reds, golden yellows, burnt orange and pale salmon, all praising their Creator for just being. Even though I felt worried about my grandson and my daughter (fear that now she'll get sick and miss another day or two of work), I found myself in awe of this God who formed our world with nothing but a word.
The idea of rejoicing seems, almost, old fashioned. How often do you hear someone say, "I am rejoicing that I saved money at the grocery store today." Or how about, "I am so full of joy that I get to go to the dentist today." Webster defines rejoice as, "to give joy" (transitive verb) or "to feel joy or great delight" (intransitive verb). Joy seems to be most often associated with a special celebration like a wedding, winning the football game or having a baby. All of these things are momentary and when the celebration is over, we might be left feeling a little let down.
So what did Paul mean when he said, "Rejoice always...." (1 Thessalonians 5:16)? We can't be having constant parties and celebrations to keep our joy intact. That would get expensive and tiring. Our joy is to come from Christ Himself.
If you look at the Old Testament you will find a pattern in which the people of God, the nation of Israel were on again, off again in their relationship with God. When they were off they usually ended up in captivity. God would always come back around, sending some warrior, or prophet to bring them back into a right relationship with him and lead them out of captivity. It was during these times of reconciliation that they rejoiced.
Ezra and Nehemiah are both good books to read in the Old Testament to see examples of God's mercy towards his people. Note in the above verse it was God that gave the people great joy. It wasn't their goodness, nor their sin that gave them great joy, it was God.
Those verses are just a few of the songs of King David that point to God as the source of our rejoicing. Rejoice in Him, let all who seek Him rejoice. This would imply that in order to rejoice always I need to be in His presence. I know, sounds crazy, right! How can we be in His presence always? We are busy people; working, taking care of kids, spending time with friends and family. Doesn't spending time in God's presence mean I have to be away from it all? Don't I need to go into a quiet room, after all it used to be called a "quiet time."
While it is beneficial to get away and spend time alone with God, we must also realize that is not the only time we have to spend with Him. God is omnipresent. That means He is everywhere, so He is with us all the time. All I have to do is talk to Him. Lest you think I walk around talking out loud all the time, the truth is I am very much an introvert. I get tired when there is too much talking and noise, or if I am around too many people for too long.
Remember last week when I talked about taking every thought captive? Well, that applies to rejoicing always. I can be in God's presence in my head. I don't have to speak out loud. In that case, my thoughts can be Godward focused as often as I direct them there. That's where the difficulty lies. Taking every thought, the good and the bad, captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ.
Only God can give us true joy. Only in Him can we truly rejoice. Yes, there are beautiful things in life that bring us joy, but they are temporary. The only way to rejoice always is to practice being in God's presence always. It is only in His presence that we fill all our springs of joy (Psalm 87:7).