“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4–7
There are some days when I hear this Scripture passage and I’m ready to jump right in with the classic Sunday School children’s song: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” (Clap! Clap!)
But there are other days when I want to roll my eyes and say, “Come on, St. Paul, really? Can we really be expected to rejoice always?”
Asking for Too Much
I mean, how is that even possible—when so much is going wrong, when there is so much to lament, when there is so much to fear? Have you seen the news these days? It’s an election year! And there’s a pandemic going on! You know, 2020 hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. And do you really mean to say we shouldn’t be anxious about anything? Not even that unpaid credit card bill? that upcoming doctor appointment? my friend’s surgery next month? Seems like you’re asking a little bit too much.
But then I remember Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians while he was in prison. Despite what my own self-pity tells me in times of anxiety and fear, I think Paul had a pretty good understanding of how to rejoice despite one’s current circumstances.
Christ Is Over All
And that’s something I need to be reminded of quite often—that we can rejoice not because of our circumstances (which are ever-changing), but simply because we are in the presence of the risen Christ. Physical well-being changes, wealth and careers change, possessions come and go. But the Lord is at hand, Paul says, so rejoice! The Lord Jesus Christ is the true source of our joy; we rejoice, ultimately, in Him.
So whether it’s prisons for St. Paul, or pandemics and politics and financial unknowns for us, those temporary circumstances are nothing compared to Jesus. The perfect peace of God surpasses all human understanding, St. Paul assures us, and it’s that peace which guards our hearts and minds, and frees us from all anxiety. The Lord is at hand, so don’t be anxious about anything, Paul encourages the Philippians—and us. Freed from anxiety, how might you live differently? What different choices might you make if you weren’t afraid of the outcome? What risks might you take for the Gospel, what mission or service experiences might you seek out for your family?
Bringing Everything to the Lord
The Lord is at hand, so bring everything to God in prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. Can you think of things to be thankful about during this crazy political pandemic season? I have to be reminded of this too—to stop and reflect on the many things I can be thankful for in the midst of a chaotic and crazy time. I’m thankful for family walks around the neighborhood, time spent playing with the kids in the backyard during our extended “Spring Break,” planting gardens and raising chickens, and video calls with longtime friends as we reconnected during quarantine. I’m thankful my church family was able to come up with creative ministry solutions for livestreaming worship and Bible study and a virtual Vacation Bible School that got my kids singing and dancing in our living room.
The Lord is at hand, and with Him comes joy, peace, and thanksgiving. No matter what our circumstances might be, today or in the months to come, this is our reality because of Jesus and His death and resurrection. May God continue to bless you with joy, and peace, and thanksgiving in the weeks to come, as you love the Lord and serve your neighbor in the name of Jesus Christ.
True joy, no matter the circumstances, is always in Christ.