I learned something new from the Bible this morning: the phrase “rejoice in the Lord” is only found twice in the New Testament (Philippians 3:1 and 4:4). Also, did you know that Philippians 3:1 and 4:4 are a command? You can put the words “You shall” before “rejoice in the Lord” based on the language of the words. “It’s a command to obey. It’s a part of obedience and righteousness, and neglecting it is a sin.”*
Paul’s letters indicate that he likely suffered from anxiety to some extent, so to come to the point of telling us to rejoice in the Lord meant that he had experienced some victory in that area himself after reading about the Old Testament holy men and women and understanding their secret of perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds.
You can find the phrase “rejoice in the Lord” eleven times in the Old Testament: 1 Samuel 2:1, Psalm 32:11, Psalm 35:9-10, Psalm 64:10, Psalm 97:12, Psalm 104:33-34, Isaiah 29:19; 41:16. Joel 2:23, Habakkuk 3:17-18, and Zechariah 10:7.
Of those verses, Habakkuk 3 reached out and grabbed at my heart this morning: “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” (emphasis mine).
I don’t have any fig trees, olives, or livestock; but translated into today’s vernacular, it might go something like this:
“Though the car won’t start,
though my paycheck doesn’t stretch far enough,
though my children live in rebellion
and my household is in disarray,
yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”
There it is, right smack dab in the middle of the confusion of our lives. Rejoice. A command from God.
The author I’m reading says this: “Waging war on worry begins with choosing to tap into the Lord Himself.”**
Joy is an attitude, a choice we make. It’s not a frivolous saying we throw out to show off our “spirituality.” It’s a deep-down, gut-level decision to trust the One True God over the circumstances we face.
So this becomes my challenge. Instead of waking up and allowing the cares of my life to overwhelm before I even get out of bed, I must pray, “God, even if nothing goes right today, no matter what happens, I trust You, and I will rejoice in Your goodness, no matter what.”
May it be so.
*, ** – Worry Less Live More, by Robert J. Morgan