“Whatever Happens…”

“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.” – Paul, from jail, to the believers in Philippi

Whatever happens globally…
2020
Corona virus
Lockdowns
Infighting
Racial horrors
Financial distress
More infighting
Wildfires
Mask wars
Elections
Political maneuvering
Wars and rumors of wars

Whatever happens personally…
Unfulfilled expectations
Unmet desires
Cultural adjustments
Online teaching
People letting you down
Loneliness
Doubt
Fear

“Whatever happens…rejoice in the Lord.”

I used to think that “rejoice in the Lord” was simply another way to say “praise the Lord”.
And I do believe that is part of it.
But as I have chewed on what it means to “rejoice in the Lord” I have come to realize it is bigger than remembering to be thankful, bigger than praising Him for His attributes, bigger than singing a praise song.

Those things are good, important, even vital.
But rejoicing IN the Lord…I think that is reveling in Him.
Enjoying Him.
Craving Him.

Have you ever hung out with someone that you just enjoyed being with?
I think of time spent with some of my favorite kids through the years, playing silly games, singing songs, snuggling sleeping babies.
I think of perfect days with friends, laughing, sharing, sometimes crying but just enjoying time. Sometimes over coffee. Sometimes over games. Sometimes over shared experiences.
Just enjoying them.
Reveling in the time, the presence, the joy.

I think that is what it means to “Rejoice in the Lord.”
Literally enjoying life with God.
Reveling in what it means to be His friend. His kid. His beloved.
Hanging out with Him.
Loving being with Him.
Every moment of every day.

Opening my eyes to see His fingerprints everywhere.
Gorgeous sunrise? “Way to God, God! That’s a good one.”
Someone says something funny? “Did you hear that one, Lord? It was a good one!”
Getting back safely from a drive anywhere? “Thanks, God, for your protection.”
Getting ready to answer an email, a message, a phone call? “Thanks that You go before me into this one, Abba!”
Having a conversation with a person? In a parallel conversation in my head, “Abba, You know her heart. Give me wisdom on what to say – and when to shut up.”
Looking in the mirror in the morning? “Well, Lord, it’s not what I would like to see. But thank You that inner beauty is way more important. Make me beautiful today by Your definition, please!”
A delicious snack? “Thanks for this, Abba!”
And everything else.

Moment by moment, heartbeat by heartbeat, enjoying Him.
Reveling in Him.
Seeing Him all around.
Acknowledging Him in all of it.
The fun stuff.
The daily grind stuff.
The hard stuff.
The no brainer stuff.
Inviting Him in.
Chatting with Him.
And being quick, quick, quick to give Him praise in ALL of it.

“Abba, my heart is breaking right now. Thank You for being the glue that holds me together.”
“Lord, I am not feeling heard or understood. Thank You that You do both.”
“God, I feel the need for vindication. Thank You that that is Your job and not mine.”
“God, I don’t know what to say, what to do, how to address this. Thank You for the wisdom You will give.”

Reveling in Him.
Soaking in Him.
Hanging out with Him.
Whatever happens, rejoicing IN the Lord.

Because the way Paul finishes Philippians 3:1 is so, so true:
“I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.”

The enemy is always, always on the prowl, always looking for an ear to fill with lies.
“God is not good. He isn’t looking out for you. He doesn’t know what He’s doing. You can’t trust Him. You are better off on your own….”

But a heart that is busy reveling in her best friend doesn’t have time, space or inclination to let those whispers even land, let alone take root.

When I stop rejoicing in the Lord, when I stop looking for His fingerprints, when I stop the ongoing chat that fills my days, when I choose sin and block that flow of fellowship temporarily – that is when those lies not only take root but they grow quickly into temptation that rapidly sprouts sinful choices.
Suddenly, my mind is filled with what I deserve, my rights, my desires and how I have been wronged.
How others are so hard to deal with.
How my life is so much less wonderful than yours.
Selfishness. Pride. Bitterness.

Motives are questioned.
People are denigrated.
And joy leaks out like the air from a punctured tire.

Rejoicing in the Lord is a safeguard for my faith.
Delighting in Him because He is delightful, delight-worthy, is a protection for my spirit.
And I am much less likely to sin when I am busy marinating myself in the wonder of Him.

That is why Paul expounded on this idea again in chapter 4 of Philippians.
“Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, and again I say, REJOICE!”

But what about those hard things, those hard times, those emotions that swamp me? Fear, regret, jealousy, anger, resentment…what about those?

The very next verses address those times:
Don’t worry about those things. Instead, pray about them! Tell God EVERTHING – and give thanks while you do it! And when you do that, His peace will replace all of those things. It is what He wants to do! That way you can get back to reveling in Him – and everything that is worth thinking about. Things that are “true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Full circle, back to delighting in Him.
Back to reveling in His character, even when I cannot explain His conduct.
Back to believing He is for me and not against me, even when I am walking in the dark.
Back to knowing that if He loved me enough to die for me, surely He loves me enough to give me all I need to live.

It’s been a hard season.
But if Paul can revel in the Lord from prison and can exhort us to do the same, I know it is possible.
Not by my own strength.
But by the grace of God and through His power, I can choose to rejoice in the Lord.
And so can you.

“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.”

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