Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This passage is great advice, but it is easier said than done. Rejoicing does not come naturally to us; it is a fruit of the Spirit that we are able demonstrate more and more as He matures us to become the image of Christ. Rejoicing always is a trait of Jesus Christ. We must learn it and practice it. We must allow the Holy Spirit reign over us and let Him produce the product of our salvation, the harvest of love. It is not easy for us to express joy in the depths of suffering, to think about hope in the midst of despair, to thank God when it seems as of all is lost. Yet, we can. We can because we trust our heavenly Father to be God, to love us and want good for us.
Imagine a two-year-old out for a day of errands with his mother. He is in the shopping cart at the grocery store and mom is pushing the cart through the cereal aisle. He doesn’t have the words or even the knowledge to express that he is tired, wants quality attention, needs something to eat and could use a cup of water. In his toddler attempt to meet his needs, since he doesn’t know how to ask for what he needs, he points to a brightly colored junk-food cereal box and says, “Mama, I want!”
Mama says, “No. I’ll give you a yogurt pouch in the car.”
This quickly deteriorates into a temper tantrum. The child has no idea how to express his needs or what his needs actually are. He doesn’t understand that Mama must do the grocery shopping for the family. But his mother knows him, loves him, and understands his unexpressed needs. She hears his cries and says to him, “Use your words, son” and even gives him the words to say, “I’m hungry, may I have a snack, please.” Then she takes his sippy cup from her purse, pours some water into it and gives it to him. Once he has calmed a little, she gives him a yogurt pouch from the shopping cart,and puts something soft by his side so that he can fall asleep as she hurries to finish shopping and get him home to a nap.
Our Father loves us so much better and deeper than even the best parent. Our Father knows our every need, even before we pray it. He knows our needs better than we ever could. The toddler wanted the sweet brightly dyed cereal but his mother knew he needed something nutritious. God hears you and He answers with what is good and what is better. In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus says it this way,
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Just before Jesus taught the disciples a framework for prayer, He said, “… your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8).
And so it is with us and our Lord. We are not yet completed to the perfect image of Christ. We cannot fully express our needs and often we don’t understand what our real needs are. But we take heart because God knows us so perfectly and He knows our true need is to be made into the image of Christ. Our circumstances may be awful, yet we can still rejoice because God is God. There are some practical tactics we can employ so that we can take our thoughts captive to obedience (2 Corinthians 10:5). Romans 8:26-30 gives us a reason we can and should rejoice even through our tears and pain. Although we don’t have the words, He knows our hearts and minds and prays perfectly since He also knows what is best for us.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Let’s read those verses in The Message.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
29-30 God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
So sometimes we like the toddler in our story, have temper tantrums when our circumstances are difficult, when we don’t understand why things are happening, or we feel hurt by life. But we can be honest, open, and frank with God. We can lay it all out for Him. Yes, He already knows but getting it out, helps us to know. It helps us to see God’s truth and love behind our indignation and let’s God pour His love, justice, and mercy into us. First know, God hears you. In Psalm 38:8-10 David said it this way,
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
So, what are the methods we can employ to stop our fits of rage, despair, and sulking? Here are eight ideas to change our focus from ourselves to the LORD and empower you to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all circumstances.
- Proclaim God’s goodness, greatness, and power. Assert the traits of God.
I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
his great goodness to the family of Israel--
He said, “Without question these are my people,
children who would never betray me.”
So he became their Savior.
In all their troubles,
he was troubled, too.
He didn’t send someone else to help them.
He did it himself, in person.
Out of his own love and pity
he redeemed them.
He rescued them and carried them along
for a long, long time.
Imprint the goodness of God on your mind and soul by repeating His attributes often. Say them, read them, memorize them until they become your way of thinking and then keep it up.
- Look to what God has done in the past.
Psalm 77:11-15 reads,
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
- Just pray! Pray anything even if all you can manage is “Oh, God!” or “Jesus, please.” Pray, breathe prayer, cry prayer, speak it, or do it silently. We’ve already gone over the fact that God knows your needs and hears your prayers and the Spirit who knows you will pray for you when your words won’t come. Jesus also prays for you. Let’s return to Romans 8. After Paul tells us about the Holy Spirit praying for us, he tells us this in verses 31-35,
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
- Read the Bible. The Lord uses Scriptures in so many ways. Often you may begin reading in despondency but will find comfort among other things. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reads,
- Spend time resting in God’s creation.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
- Fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ: Galatians 6:2 tells us to “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We are commanded to gather together Hebrews 10:23-25 says,
- Serve others. Galatians 5:13-15 reads,
- Now finally the ultimate and overriding reason we use these and other modalities to rejoice always, our future hope. 1 Peter 1:3-9 in The Message reads,
I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.
Our future hope is described in Revelation 21 Verses 1-4 read,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Believer, you can take your thoughts captive. You do not have to let them run wild and take you to low or dark places. Whether good or bad, your thoughts can remain on God and not on yourself. Peter could walk on water through a storm as long as he kept his focus on Jesus, but when his focus changed to the storm and the impossible way he walked above it, he began to drown (Matthew 14:22-33). Believer, rejoice always, do what Jesus did.