I have heard people counsel those who were hurting or facing tremendous crises in their lives that they should take Paul’s advice and “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). This is usually said with great enthusiasm and certainty. The look they usually get is priceless. “Ok, it’s easy for you to give that advice when life is cushy, but don’t try to tell me that when I am in my deepest pain or my world is about to come crashing down on me I am supposed to run up and down the street and rejoice.”
Debbie and I have been “house hunting” for the past month and have actually lived with relatives nine out of the last twelve months due to the end of the CPE program and our move to Michigan with no secure employment. It has been tough, both on us and our family which has been gracious to open their homes. While trying to be positive about the situation there have been times when I have felt like throwing my hands high in the air and giving up. Don’t read too much into that “giving up” statement, but it was really difficult to jump up and down and rejoice in the fact that family generosity was being strained, we were quickly blowing through all savings and dealing with disappointment after disappointment when an application was never responded to or rejections after making it to the final group of one or two others in interviews.
There is no question that almost everyone reminded me that it was all “God’s time” and there was a plan if we just trusted. It wasn’t long that such counseling sounded hollow. How could I, when dealing with doubts of self-worth, which is a pretty frequently trip even when things are going well, rejoice without being hypocritical in ingenious?
Then one day in my daily reading I read through Paul’s letter to Philippi I heard God’s message to rejoice. When I read it I did not knee-jerk with the attitude that had become normal when I heard this passage from others. What was different this time? I understood it this time as not a command to rejoice in my current situation but rejoice in who God is, or at least in who I think God is. Time after time God has manifested Himself in situations that could have only been Him working. I was called to rejoice in my call to His service and the gifts He has bestowed upon me. The peace that is spoken of in verse 7 “the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” was mine.
It wasn’t but a few days after that the wheels started turning that would eventually lead to the calling by Immanuel Baptist Church in Ypsilanti to be their pastor. Now with the house hunting there are still are those times when rejoicing in our current situation just doesn’t seem to be genuine but when I look past that and rejoice in who God is I once again feel peace.
I like peace!