I spent all of January posting about change because of everything that was transitioning in 2013. But let me just say, I had no idea how much things would change and how many aspects of my life were going to be affected. I knew about a couple of areas, but for now, let’s just say that I think a lot more is going to change by the end of 2013 than I expected.
I mean, first off, I’m getting a new phone. And not just a new phone to carry around with me, but a new phone service. I haven’t had a new phone service in nearly 20 years. But the way things are working out, for financial reasons, we had to do something different. And maybe that sounds like a small thing, but learning a new phone and a plan on top of everything else isn’t exactly simple. And there are all sorts of other things coming down the pipe, and to top it all off, there’s a big winter storm coming in today. And I don’t mind the snow, but the ice will be difficult.
And it would be so easy to sit down and point out all the negatives in all of these situations I’m dealing with, but I’m pretty sure the Bible says not to do that. And I’m pretty sure the Book of Philippians has a thing or two to say on just focusing on the negatives, but why does it matter? When everything changes and when you’re disappointed and when you’re tired of everything, what’s wrong with allowing yourself to feel unhappy?
Today’s verse is Philippians 3:1.
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.
Sometimes life just happens. Sometimes you can’t avoid it, and you get caught up in the drama and the high emotion, and there’s nothing you can do about it except press forward. And it’s all you can do to drag yourself out of bed because you know you’re just going to face another day where you have to work a job that stresses you out or you have to face an unpleasant situation that you can’t control.
And it’s in those moments where I feel that I just want to sit down and cry. I want to curl up in a ball and not talk to anybody and not have to be a shining example of Christ to the world because I’m so tired of not having control. I’m so tired of everything going wrong. I’m so tired of finally getting the hang of something just to have it change on me again.
So why is it important to keep looking up when those moments come? Why can’t I tuck myself in a corner and refuse to listen to what God is saying? What’s wrong with sinking into a dark hole and giving up?
Most of the time I worry about how my actions and reactions will affect the other believers around me. But in this instance, I don’t think that’s the concern. Yes, it’s important for mature Christians to be a good example to new believers, but it’s doubly important for mature Christians to have a healthy perspective of circumstances in their life. Because it won’t matter how long you’ve been following Christ; you’ll grow bitter toward Him. And bitterness and faith don’t really work well together.
Notice that Paul doesn’t say when things are good we are to rejoice in the Lord. He doesn’t even say when things are bad to rejoice in the Lord. He says whatever happens. Good or bad. Planned or unplanned. Expected or unexpected. Happy or not.
Rejoice if you got the job. Rejoice if you didn’t. Rejoice if someone you love dies. Rejoice if someone you love welcomes a new life into the world (shout out to Luis and Val Alicea and little Isabella who arrived at 1am today!). Rejoice if the sun is shining. Rejoice if it’s cloudy. Rejoice if everything is right. Rejoice if nothing is.
Rejoice. No matter what.
Because it will protect your faith.
Choosing to have joy is a hard thing, especially when you’re struggling emotionally. Choosing to be thankful even for the bad things in life is challenging because it’s so much easier to just give up. But if you give up, you’re stepping out of a story that’s bigger than you. You’re choosing to believe that God can’t use a difficult situation in spite of how difficult it is. You’re choosing to believe that God is unable or unwilling, and that’s not true.
But so many people harden themselves when God doesn’t give them what they want. And it’s not that God is holding back blessings. It’s just that He has something better planned. But we have to choose to believe that.
Notice also that Paul apparently has repeated this a couple of times. But he says he never gets tired of repeating it, probably because he needed to hear it every time he said it or every time he wrote it.
It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been a follower of Christ, I still struggle with this, because I get stuck in that dark place between opportunity and challenge where I can see how God could give me everything I want. But then He turns around and sets me on a completely different path from what I thought He wanted. And I don’t know how to deal with that. I don’t understand many times why He does the things He does.
But let’s be honest for a moment. Do you really want to know what He has planned? If I think back ten or even fifteen years, I would have never imagined He could have brought me this far, and if He had told me about the responsibilities I would be trusted with as a 30 year old when I was a goofy little 15 year old? I would have had a coronary.
God has plans for us. They’re good plans. Plans to give us hope and a future. But the world is broken and so are we. And it’s rarely an instance of God just snapping His fingers or wiggling His nose in order to get us what we want; there’s usually some attitudes that have to be changed on our part before we can get there. And there are definitely challenges we have to overcome first. But if we can persevere through the challenges and through the difficulties and maintain the joy that we have on the good days throughout the bad days, something miraculous happens.
We grow up. We get stronger. And our faith increases because God proves Himself over and over again through difficult times. And later on down the road, He’ll usually give us what we want. We just have to want Him more first. If we can want Him and want what He wants more than anything, then facing trouble with a smile isn’t that hard because you realize that anything He allows is just going to help you later on.