A Reason to Rejoice
by Ellie Holcomb
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 4:4-7 (CSB)
I love this promise from God’s Word, but the command “Rejoice in the Lord always” can sometimes feel cruel in light of some of the pain and suffering life can throw at us. There are times when I wonder, “I’m supposed to rejoice in the middle of this mess?! I don’t feel like rejoicing. I feel like weeping.” But then crashing into that command to rejoice is one of the sweetest promises of all: “The Lord is near.”
The nearness of God has been a balm to my weary and wounded soul over and over again, and when I remember that God promises He’ll be near me always, I don’t have to worry, and I always have a reason to sing and to rejoice. In fact, this is the verse that inspired “Find You Here,” the song I wrote in the wake of my dad’s cancer diagnosis.
Nobody is ever ready for that call. A week after receiving that very scary news, my mom and dad had a worship night at their house. I’ll never forget it. I stood at the edge of the room that night, almost frozen in fear, but as I watched my mom and dad run into all the darkness and all the unknown ahead of them on this cancer journey with their hands raised in the air, praising God, the invitation to join them was almost irresistible. I ended up in the middle of the room praising God right beside them, and we encountered the peace and the presence of God that night in a way that will mark me forever. We didn’t have any answers or guarantees about my dad’s health. But we had peace. The Lord was near. I wrote these words to “Find You Here” the next day:
It’s not the news that any of us hoped that we would hear
It’s not the road we would have chosen
The only thing that we can see is darkness up ahead,
But You’re asking us to lay our worries down and sing a song instead
And I didn’t know I’d find You here
In the middle of my deepest fear
But You are drawing near, You are overwhelming me with peace
My dad is now cancer-free, and we’re all so grateful, but I know my parents would have me say two things in light of their story: 1. Not all hard stories end this way. (My family knows this well even in our own family history outside of my dad’s journey) and 2. There are no guarantees except for the faithfulness and love of Jesus, which has seen us through all the way to the cross and beyond into resurrection life that is waiting for us on the other side. Because we have that, we can look suffering dead in the eye and say, “I see you, but because of who Jesus is and because of what He did on the cross and because He walked out of the grave, you do not get the final word. Love wins in the end, and this is why we can ‘rejoice always.’ This is why we’ve always got a reason to sing.”
I’m so grateful that God’s promises are not only true today and every day for us, but they infuse us with the strength we need to keep rejoicing right in the face of our worries. We may be tempted to believe the lies that God isn’t with us, that worrying will do more than approaching Him in prayer, that joy just isn’t possible in this place. But here’s the truth: God is near. He promises that, and in his presence, as we lay our needs and heart before him, we can have both joy and peace. We really can. Lord, may Your nearness grant us peace and joy in the most unexpected places, even today.
- What circumstances in your life make it difficult to “rejoice always?”
- Have you ever experienced a peace or nearness from God that was unexplainable to your friends and family? What was that like?
- I’ve heard Beth Moore say that these verses are like God’s prescription for peace. Take some time and write down the opposite of this truth. (For example, you could start off with “Complain in the Lord always. I will say it again: Complain!”) After you do this, take inventory. Does your life look like you are taking a prescription for peace or for anxiety?
Father, I pray you’ll grant me trust that you are near me in the midst of my worries, give me courage to present my needs and heart before you in total honesty, and infuse me with a deep gratitude that shifts my perspective in a drastic way. I thank you for the promise of peace that will come when I choose to rejoice in who you are no matter what I face.
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