Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NRSV)
Rejoice always. That’s not an easy instruction, even coming from the apostle Paul who had plenty to not rejoice about.
It’s easy to rejoice when things are going our way, but not so much when things turn dark. It’s hard to sing through pain. It’s hard to smile through suffering. It’s hard to reach out for what is good and right when so much is going wrong. Yet Jesus invites us: rejoice always. What we see isn’t the whole picture. We are called to have faith in the unseen, and to believe even when the evidence we see doesn’t always support our faith.
One of the most depressing aspects of the late fall/early winter is that many of us don’t see daylight much if at all, several days a week. If one works in a place without windows and comes to work in the dark and leaves in the dark, at times it’s almost hard to believe that the sun exists.
In hard times we don’t always see the evidence that God is with us- like the winter sun that we seldom see from October until March. Yet God is with us, in all things, even in suffering, illness, grief, and adversity.
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.
Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16 (NRSV)