“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
These words from Paul’s letter to the Philippians rang out to us a few weeks ago on Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice? How can we rejoice when there are so many bad things happening all around us? We are approaching our second full year of this global pandemic. The virus continues to rage and destroy lives, livelihoods, and ways of life.
As a parent of small children, I feel a sense of dread each time my email alert sounds, wondering if my child has been exposed at school and will she need to quarantine again? How am I supposed to rejoice in this?
As excited and grateful as I was to feel the sense of relief when my older daughter was able to be vaccinated, I continue to feel a sense of uneasiness and concern that my younger daughter, who is under five, will need to wait many months to get her vaccine. How am I supposed to rejoice in this?
In December, there was a deadly school shooting in Oxford, MI, thirty miles north of where I grew up. My heart aches for the families and students who lost loved ones and friends. I also fear that this could happen closer to me, in my daughters’ schools, or in a public place nearby. How am I supposed to rejoice in this?
How am I supposed to rejoice in this? I am supposed to rejoice in all of this because my faith compels me to. How can we exist if we don’t have joy or trust that God is taking care of us? As people of faith, we need to respond to what is going on around us with the lens of our faith. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul continues:
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The world around us is full of stressors, fear, and uncertainty. Our sense of security is shaken. Throughout this pandemic, I have found that there is only so much I can do to control what is happening. I take the necessary precautions for my family and myself, but beyond that, there is a sense of liberation in letting go of what I can’t control. It helps when I put away my phone or turn off the TV, and focus on what is most important: my family and friends, my own self-care, and my faith. As Paul continues in his letter:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
As we start a new year, I encourage you to put these words into practice. Think about what is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Focus on the positive aspects of what is happening, take care of ourselves and those around us, and rejoice in the Lord always!