“Rejoice always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16
Phone Rings. You pick it up.
“Hi, (insert your name). Yeah, I was calling to inform you that your best friend has died in a tragic accident.”
or “It’s Cancer”
or “We are going to foreclose”
How do you rejoice then?
The message is clear. It is written in God’s word, and I have heard Him whisper it to my heart on may occasions. However, it is not always clear what it looks like in practice. This article about the impact of smiling on stress level suggest making the choice to smile can help you cope with difficult circumstances. This solution feels a bit simplistic for some situations but it is a place to start.
Other research points out how gratitude improves sleep and various other benefits of gratitude. My personal recovery from emotional wipeout generally includes a phase where I immerse myself in perspective changing gratitude.
After my daughter was born I developed a long term infection. The doctors had never seen anything like it and every treatment attempt failed. It lingered for a full 6 months through multiple rounds of oral antibiotics, emergency room intravenous antibiotics, and various homeopathic remedies. I finally had to ween my newborn in a last ditch effort to eliminate the infection. At that point I finally began to heal but, after pregnancy, childbirth, then prolonged sickness my mind, body, and spirit were completely depleted. I fell into a depression from which I truly struggled to break free.
My process of recovery was slow but miraculous. I am forever grateful to Jesus and His church for the blessings of deep, honest, and loving relationships. Later, when I studied the practice of counseling I could see how Christ had revealed empirically supported secrets to curing heartache through my personal path to recovery.
I remember lying on my bed one Sunday afternoon, in the fetal position, engulfed by the sense of my own shortcomings, failures, and even the misconceptions of others. I struggled to slow the cascading thoughts enough to follow any one to its conclusion. It took everything I had to capture each condemning thought, put words to it, and whisper it as a confessional prayer. I took each thought to Jesus while envisioning myself at the foot cross. I made the conscious choice to lay that burden down and receive his grace for every failure, misconception, broken hope, broken relationship, broken dream, and broken promise. I remember praying out loud, “Okay, Jesus, I am a Christian because I believe your grace is enough and you laid down your life to buy my freedom from this issue. I choose to believe your blood and your grace cover this. Either you are the way, the truth, and the life, or I have no hope.” He met me powerfully in that moment of surrender.
The next step in my path to wholeness was an exercise in gratefulness. I thought of people who mattered to me and I began writing them thank you notes. I thanked them for the investments they had made in my life. I thanked them for things I had seen in them that I admired or appreciated. And I thanked them for being examples of Christ’s love in my life. These notes were vital to my recovery process and learning to perceive the world through new eyes. A grateful heart is absolutely essential to recovery from depression. Peace and joy can only grow out of the soil of a grateful heart.
The biblical command to rejoice doesn’t always make heart sense, especially because there appears to be an element of personal choice in the whole process. But do it. Make the choice to rejoice. It is a discipline more than a feeling and it comes after surrender to God’s ways. Without God’s mercies it is impossible to think yourself happy. My gratefulness needs an authentic place to grow roots. Redemption is the only soil rich and deep enough to nurture gratefulness in any situation. I am forever grateful for God’s grace. That grace is my reason enough to rejoice, ALWAYS.
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
3 He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the LORD.
4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD,
who have no confidence in the proud
or in those who worship idols.
5 O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.
6 You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
Now that you have made me listen, I finally understandt—
you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
7 Then I said, “Look, I have come.
As is written about me in the Scriptures:
8 I take joy in doing your will, my God,
for your instructions are written on my heart.”
9 I have told all your people about your justice.
I have not been afraid to speak out,
as you, O LORD, well know.
10 I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;
I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.
I have told everyone in the great assembly
of your unfailing love and faithfulness.
11 LORD, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me.
Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles surround me—
too many to count!
My sins pile up so high
I can’t see my way out.
They outnumber the hairs on my head.
I have lost all courage.
13 Please, LORD, rescue me!
Come quickly, LORD, and help me.
14 May those who try to destroy me
be humiliated and put to shame.
May those who take delight in my trouble
be turned back in disgrace.
15 Let them be horrified by their shame,
for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”
16 But may all who search for you
be filled with joy and gladness in you.
May those who love your salvation
repeatedly shout, “The LORD is great!”
17 As for me, since I am poor and needy,
let the Lord keep me in his thoughts.
You are my helper and my savior.
O my God, do not delay.