Last month I wanted to find some words of encouragement for the month of August and live by those words. I wanted to see if it would make a difference in my life and what would that difference be. I thought about it for a day and the word REJOICE kept echoing in my mind, and then it was shouted: “REJOICE in the Lord.” (Read about what prompted this need for change here).
I found the verse “rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV) in the Bible, just to reaffirm what I knew. I don’t think there was any doubt as to what I should focus on in the month of August. I needed to dedicate the whole month to focus on rejoicing in the Lord. I didn’t think it would be easy, but I didn’t think it would be hard either! (I mean, how hard could it be to rejoice in the Lord?).
I failed the very first day. My relationship with my fiancé wasn’t going the way I want it to. I wasn’t happy. I tried listening to Christian music and even danced, but I felt fake. I was trying too hard. My heart wasn’t in it.
I was stressed out about it. How can I rejoice in the Lord properly when I am not feeling 100 percent? How am I supposed to “rejoice” anyway? What does it mean to truly rejoice in the Lord? Does it mean I have to be happy all the time? How do I keep myself feeling happy when I want to cry?
Obviously, I needed to do some research on this topic. I needed help to understand the meaning of rejoicing in God and how to get to a place where I am truly rejoicing in Him instead of running when I feel like I cannot because I am, somehow, on the losing end.
On my second day, I started my research. During my search, I landed on Active Christianity’s page on what it means to rejoice always. When I finished reading their post, I didn’t think it was what I was looking for… but after further consideration, I thought it would be good to share with you other ways that can hinder us from being happy in the Lord and how we can overcome it. This is what I found:
When you are suffering for your belief, for being a Christian, you should rejoice, keeping in mind that you are suffering as Christ had (1 Peter 4:13 NIV). This suffering is your victory over sin and you should rejoice in that. Your flesh and worldly desires are calling you to sin and in denying yourself this sin, you are surely also suffering. Your suffering shows your victory over sin. If you are suffering because you carry the name of Jesus on your lips, just remember to “not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” for when judgment day comes, the outcome will not be desirable for those who do not obey the gospel (1 Peters 4:16 -17 NIV).
I decided that a better way to understand what it means to rejoice is to go back to God’s words and look at the context.
“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.” – Philippians 4:8, NIV
To overcome sin, to remain in joy and praise God we MUST think about the good things. Think about the good God has done for us and refuse to let our situations bring us down.
So, singing and dancing, even when our hearts are heavy, we are on the right path. Just focus on the good.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16 Paul urged the church in Thessalonica to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for [us] in Christ Jesus.” This is God’s WILL for us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all circumstances, ALWAYS.
How do we keep God’s will? Upon reading the verse prior to the above verse, Paul instructed the Thessalonians to “make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (1 Thessalonians 5:15 NIV). These are the meanings of Paul’s words: do not think about revenge, getting even, or seeking justice based on your knowledge, but focus on love and how to respond in love and do what is good for everyone. Do not hold grudges in your heart. This is one way for us to keep rejoicing in the Lord; it is to let all the negative emotions in us disappear, keep only the good. Focus on the good emotions that way it’ll allow you to fully praise and rejoice in God and His goodness. The verse from Philippians 4:8 also supports this statement.
When we are able to let God handle the injustice we feel has been done to us, we let go of that situation and let God take over. We focus on the good things He’s done in our lives and rejoice in Him, let His peace cover the situation that has shaken us, in this way we keep joy in our lives regardless of the situation we are faced with. In the end, our joy in Him will be the joy in our lives and we will not let the worse overcome us.
Knowing this well enough, I went ahead and tried to keep what I’ve learned in mind. It was quite difficult. Some days I am able to remember God and be truly happy that He’s given me another day to be closer to Him. Other days, I dwell in the overwhelming burdens of life by overthinking the situation I am in and thinking of scenarios and how I would respond. I spent hours thinking about it, driving myself nuts to the point of exhaustion and still no solutions to be had.
Half-way through the month, I was able to start letting God handle the things I cannot control and start to simply be happy and leave everything to Him. Below are the steps I followed to keep myself rejoicing in God’s goodness and let Him take control.
- Read the Bible every morning. This helps me remember the good God has done and sometimes I find verses that will help me throughout my day.
- Pray for my day. I find it extremely helpful to ask God to guide me throughout the day and to keep my temper in check. Some days I have to pray for internal peace so that I can keep external peace. Pray for what you think you will need.
- Sing His praises throughout the day. I am a horrible singer but I do love to sing along to songs of praise, and when I get shy to sing in public, I sing it with my heart. But singing praises isn’t just about singing, it also means talking about the blessings and grace He’s shown you. This step is similar to the next step.
- Brag about Him to friends and families, strangers even. I talk about the goodness God has done in my life and talk about how great He is. I recall times in my past where He’s handled everything for me. This makes me happy to know that He knew me, knows me, and was there before I even knew His existence. (I do this through my blog because it is easier and it keeps me closer to God. I want to share what I’ve learned about Him with the world. It is more convenient since everyone I know has a life and are pretty much busy when I’m done with my epiphany of God. So, in the moment, I would write or jot down what God has done for me so I don’t forget and later on brag to my friends about it).
- In the evening/night or right before I go to bed, I write down my daily blessings and thank Him for it. This allows me to reflect on my day, see where God had been in my life and appreciate the moments He’s created for me. It also helps me see how He’s changing me little by little.
I am not saying that I have now gotten these steps down to a perfect routine and have successfully rejoiced in God consistently. No, what I am saying is that it is in progress, but that it’s lead me to a good place and I will continue to rejoice in the Lord always.
Here are a few changes in my life since starting this routine:
- My quick temper has calmed. I respond in love more often than in anger.
- I am more focused on the good things and on my goals.
- God is becoming more and more the center of my life.
- God has revealed more about the meanings of His words to me.
- I am almost worry-free (yay!) daily.
- I feel less alone and know I can depend on the one who knows me better than I do.
- I am quick to forgive. This is a huge improvement for me because I often misunderstand my fiancé’s intentions and refuse to forgive him (even though there is nothing to forgive). The misunderstanding would cause a rift between us because of my stubbornness against forgiving him and understanding him. Since I’ve become less hot-tempered and have more focus, I begin to see where the miscommunications are and can see my part in that miscommunication. This has brought me more happiness because now I can first forgive him and myself, then apologize to him for my part, and it has stopped a lot of hurt feelings. (Read here on the perks of forgiving the other party before they apologize).
I am expecting great things to happen in my life and am thanking God ahead of time.
The closer I get to God, the happier I am even if my life is a mess.