2007-09-27 - Rejoice Always
1 Thess 5:16 Rejoice always; (NASB)
At first glance, this little verse might appear to be an easy one to comply with. One of the things we are guaranteed in the United States Constitution at a right is "the pursuit of happiness". While we are not promised happiness itself as a right, we all desire to be happy. If we think about this little two word sentence for just a moment, we will probably believe that Paul and Silvanus and Timothy (1 Thess 1:1) are not thinking straight.
So many things cause us to lose anything resembling joy. Driving in traffic during rush hour is enough to test most of us. Difficult people in our neighborhoods or at our jobs are problems many of us deal with at least from time to time. Busy schedules can make tempers short, especially when others appear to be adding to the work load with no hint of helping out. I think this can be boiled down to the statement - Life is not fair. I will not contradict that statement. There are many things about life that are not fair. There are injustices that should be righted from the embarrassing pimple that shows up right before the big dance to children going hungry across town and around the world.
Consider that annoying coworker. We have no real idea of their history and the things they may have had to overcome. I know people who have had seriously life altering events from car accidents with injuries that will never completely heal in this life, to having to be the primary care-giver for a dying spouse. These are things that could easily cause someone to give into bitterness or self-centeredness. The friends I know have been spared this path. But the paths of their lives are unquestionably altered at the same time. The car accident victim was not at fault in the accident. The surviving spouse did everything she could to help her husband, but knew she would lose him in this life regardless of her efforts or desires. Life is not fair.
If we believe that God is in control, then many people will cross our lives for a reason. God sent them across our path. Will they leave that encounter better for the meeting? The driver that cuts another off in traffic may not have intended to upset anyone, and may be even more upset that they almost caused an accident. Be thankful that everyone is safe and give the other person a wave that you're alright. Be there for the spouse that has lost their mate when you can be. There will be a day when you will desperately need some of what has been called "God's love with skin on".
I will honestly say there are very few times I qualify for that title. I get upset with people in traffic. I can be impatient with others when they really might need some patience. It's hard for me to know what their problem is, and even harder for me to fairly judge their actions. Would this not be an epitaph that we could all wish to have carved on our tombstone? "He (or She) was God's love with skin on". How do we even have a prayer of getting there? By rejoicing when the two cars miss, or being just a little more patient with that person who just never seems to get the explanation. Or it comes from being there for that one who has suffered a loss.
Early in her singing career, Amy Grant performed a song called Father's Eyes where she wished for one thing. That one thing was that when we all stand before the Father, what we would all say about her was that she had her Father's eyes. To see the hurts and fears and difficulties around us with the eyes of God that know this happened for a reason was her wish. The Father knows what that purpose is, but we may not know until we are home with Him. It may have been partly to bring the two people together talk or just listen. Our challenge is to reach into our faith and see these trials with an eternal perspective. It's difficult to think about in some cases taking even one more step with that person who is so crabby. But few of us will argue the potential is there to make an eternal difference. Can we take on that challenge?
Grace & Peace,