In a worship service at the recent 2019 SEJ Clergywomen’s Conference, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Wilson led participants in singing the familiar round, “Rejoice in the Lord, Always.” The joy in the room was palpable as 300+ clergywomen sang over and over the words of Philippians 4:4. “Rejoice in the Lord, always: and again I say Rejoice.” (KJV) What an appropriate song to sing as the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend quickly approaches.
Yet, it was only by the grace of God that all of us in the room that evening last week had the capacity to genuinely “rejoice.” This is because some who were present have recently lost family members or friends to death. Others are going through difficult times in their churches. Still, others struggle with declining, even debilitating health circumstances. Then there are financial, relational and additional challenges that come with living life on this earth.
You and I can identify because we, too, sometimes experience hard aspects of life. Indeed, some of us are in the middle of such a time right now. Truly, how does one “Rejoice in the Lord, always”?
Rejoice: The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines rejoice as “to give joy to; gladden; to feel joy or great delight; to have or possess joy.” It would be impossible to follow the instruction from Philippians 4:4 if the verse consisted of only the word “rejoice.” However, the verse reminds us of a reason for joy that supersedes any circumstances in which we find ourselves. It is talking about a kind of joy that is deep, authentic and sometimes mixed in with pain and tears.
In the Lord: The focal point for our joy is the one constant and consistently positive dimension to this life – Jesus Christ. Jesus grieves with us in our pain and loss, listens to us in our difficulties and sorrows, supports us through thick and thin, redeems us from our mistakes and sin and offers us new life that starts now and lasts for all eternity.
Always: So we rejoice in Jesus, always. In good and bad times . . . when life is going great and when it is falling apart . . . when our hearts are full and when they are empty . . . when our dreams are coming true and when they are crashing down around us. It is always good, right and appropriate to rejoice in the One who is walking with us 24/7, Jesus the Christ.
Philippians 4:4 is not an easy Scripture passage to live. Yet, “rejoicing always” is a principle of the Christian life. During this Thanksgiving season, I invite you to join me in a renewed commitment to rejoice. In the Lord. Always.
It is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference