Just go ahead. Call me scrooge. I tire easily of the quaint social media cliches this time of year simply because it's the month of November. I'm not saying you shouldn't be thankful---It's a great thing to give thanks publicly! But what if you took the time to hand-write your thoughts in a personal note or to seek out your friend, parent, child or co-worker and speak these words of encouragement directly into their heart while looking them in the eye? I'm preaching to myself --- doing so is not easy or comfortable by any stretch of the imagination. BUT....to be the recipient of such an uber amazing gift can be enough to lift your spirit for at least a day if not months or years! When discouragement and difficulty comes knocking, the simple remembrance can strengthen you again and again.
Today as I read/journaled Philippians 3 & 4, I was reminded what exactly is "real gratitude"; what it means to rejoice in the Lord. I dare say the majority who read this will gather around a table laden with way too much food, surrounded by those that we love on this national holiday. I know that will---I can't wait to sleep in, watch a parade and spend time in the kitchen cooking with my family! The bliss of lingering over pumpkin pie and coffee and look upon the amazing people I call my husband and children is precious to me.
There are those who will not be celebrating---they find themselves caught in the perfect storm and God seems at the very least silent....or worse: abandoned them. If you have not been there, I pray you never are. In all likelihood, you will be there at least once during your life and it stinks. It's hard. You wouldn't wish it on people you don't like, no matter what time of year it pulls into your driveway.
More than once in Philippians 3 and 4 Paul instructs us to Rejoice! When words are repeated in a Biblical text, it highlights their importance. Did Paul say we could take a break and just let that rejoicing thing slide if things weren't going well? Nope. He makes sure it is accompanied by other strong words:
- Stand Firm
- Let your gentleness be evident to all
- Do not be anxious about anything
Happiness is a fickle emotion based on circumstances. To rejoice is a conscience decision, a choice -- especially when you don't feel like it. If you will indulge me, I want to try to describe where I come down on the subject, in a nutshell, and tell you where I have found God and a path through the storm.
Gentleness is not something natural to me. Just thinking about it makes me grit my teeth. Impatient would be a more apt descriptive of me! Everyday, MANY times everyday, I have to say, "Lord, I'm just not feeling loving. I know you love (insert name). I don't want to love them right this minute. You have got to help me to love them with YOUR love or I'm sunk." I could spend a year of blog entries on that idea alone but you get my drift!
I am, but nature, an anxious person. Very anxious. I am OCD. I am anal retentive. I worry. I fret. I lay awake at night thinking of any and all possible "what if" scenarios. BUT I have been walking with God long enough to have learned that feelings are not dependable. At all. Never. Worrying, in reality is a subtle way of saying, in essence, "God, I know you don't have this under control and You are going to let me down!" Ouch. Yep. Been there, done that. I hope you have never done it. I am doing my level best to not go there. To NOT to go down that street, and be sucked back into the "condemned house" where I used to live in fear and anxiety and depression. Everyday, it is a conscious decision. Every. single. day.
Paul encourages us to present our requests in EVERY SITUATION by prayer and petition with THANKSGIVING to God. We know God does miracles. Big ones. But what about "the little stuff"? When you need some grace.... like when you have to chose which bill to pay? Or you kid needs new shoes and you know you don't have enough money to cover even the knock-off brand at Wal-Mart? When someone you thought was a friend said something that hurt or forgot to call you back?
The praise and joy that is my gift to God
cannot be linked to my ever-changing circumstances.
The evil one declared war long ago. His intent is to get us to focus our happiness and on what makes us FEEL good. He wants to distract us with what we can see, touch and experience. The stuff that looks great today and tomorrow turns to dust.
The peace of GOD, on the other hand, transcends any human understanding. I know. You cannot manufacture it. You cannot explain it. The peace that GOD gives will guard your heart---and help you choose what is good, right, noble, lovely, admirable and excellent .....even when the evil one says, "Oh, pssssssft.....just once, it won't hurt to do something 'fun'!" The peace of God will guard your mind. The peace of God will help you to press on. The peace of God will help you to take hold of the hand of Christ Jesus. The peace of God will make it possible for you to strain forward and press on toward the goal.
When we can choose to rejoice and give thanks IN every situation, the God of Peace is with us. Take a moment to think about that. GOD IS WITH YOU! That is something too big to wrap my mind around. It is worth more than a few moments of pleasure that turn sour in my mouth and haunt me with regret for decades.
My citizenship is in heaven and that is where I am pressing on toward. Along the way, throughout the journey, I will choose to rejoice. I will give thanks!