As I sit at my desk eight days into the new year, I am basking in what I like to refer to as, the-quiet-of-now. The gentle tick-tock-ticking of the grandfather clock in the entryway lends a richness that is soothing as it faithfully measures the passage of these moments. While most clocks chastise, reprimanding us when we are late (again!) others frustrate us as we are held captive while waiting for a long anticipated event to finally take place, Rarely do I count clocks as friends– except for quiet moments such as now that allow for quiet reflection. This morning, as time moves forward according to the rhythm of the grandfather, I am at peace and joy fills my heart. Why? What is at the root of such peace and joy in our unstable times? Remembering how God’s faithfulness carried me through trials, as I held fast to this truth:
I CAN HAVE JOY IN SPITE OF MY CIRCUMSTANCES,
AND I CAN HAVE JOY IN SPITE OF PEOPLE . . .
THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.
Four decades ago, when, eager to get to know God better in my new faith, I joined my first Bible study. We were a small group led by an amazing woman named Virginia Franz. From the start, I liked Virginia. She had a way of disarming people with her kind eyes and sparkling smile that drew us all in. During our study of Philippians I learned to respect the way she spoke the truth of Scripture with compassion and grace.
In our six-week-study of Philippians, Virginia developed the concept of joy being dependent, not on having the esteem of other people nor in the fluctuating seasons of life, but in staying Christ-centered. I still smile when I remember how Virginia’s face lit up as she told us how God uses the hardships in our lives to accomplish the (seemingly) impossible. In Paul’s case, Virginia talked about how Paul (chained to a Roman guard 24/7) took advantage of his incarceration as he “talked every guard’s ear off about the love of Christ” and their need of a Savior.*
Paul’s commitment to trust and honor Christ Jesus while in prison, impacted not only the lives of the recipients of his letter, but of countless people centuries later–including our own. In the four chapters of Paul’s letter he mentions “joy” or “rejoice” sixteen times as he encouraged them (and you and I) with these words:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
What has stayed with me all these years later was Virginia’s conclusion–posted the last day on a board for all to see and re-posted here to encourage you:
YOU CAN HAVE JOY IN SPITE OF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES,
AND YOU CAN HAVE JOY IN SPITE OF PEOPLE,
THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS YOU!
How is this possible? By living out Paul’s call to REJOICE . . .ALWAYSl We do this by giving thanks for His love and mercy, and thanks that this is not all there is.) We can give thanks that JOY is no longer dependent on our outward circumstances or other human relationships. No! Joy becomes our reality when we center our minds and hearts on Christ. As we refuse to give way to fear and instead GIVE THANKS that His divine purposes are being worked out–even as darkness appears to have the upper hand–JOY becomes ours.
As we move into 2021, let us enter it in the quiet-of-now confidence of knowing God is in control–determined to refuse fear’s invitation–by steadfastly walking in faith. Giving thanks for (and with!) all of you . . .❤️
All to His Glory!
*Paul shared about this in Philippians 1:12,13
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that my circumstances have actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”