This week’s Memory Verse is super easy to memorize and super difficult to live. Here it is:
“Always be joyful.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NLT)
Three simple words. Close your eyes and say it to yourself. See? You already have it memorized.
But how do we live it? And what does it really even mean?
When a child dies, are we supposed to be joyful? When our husband loses his job, do we rejoice?
Is God asking us to slap on a happy face and pretend everything is okay?
Even Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35), got angry and overturned tables of the men using the temple as a mini-mall (Matthew 21:12) and cried out to God in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39).
Jesus was without sin, so we know it’s not sinful to show our true emotions.
Pastor Steven Cole says in his lesson, Three Impossible Commands, “‘rejoicing always’ is a conscious attitude of contentment, hope, and happiness that comes from deliberately focusing on Christ and the eternal treasures that we have received freely from Him.”
So perhaps for us, always being joyful means that when we find ourselves in the midst of our darkest pain, we take our eyes off ourselves and turn them directly toward God. We bring Him our anger and our questions and our grief, but also our acknowledgement that we know He has an eternal plan. And that plan is good and worth rejoicing over.
That initial step of taking our eyes off ourselves is hard, sometimes too hard, if we try to do it on our own. So in an act of obedience, because we know our strength comes from the Lord, we ask God to help us.
Friends, I think there is something beautiful about allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with the people around us. Kindness lives in that place, because our brokenness allows others the freedom to be truthful about what they are going through, too.
But in that same room is a place for joy, always. Call it the silver lining. Call it kindness. Call it whatever you want, but remember it comes from God and it is a gift.
And a gift like that always brings joy.