It’s hard to swallow the words of Philippians 4:4 when life around you feels like it’s falling apart. Rejoice? How is one supposed to rejoice in the loss of a child? Or the loss of your only source of income? How about depression and anxiety? Rejoice?
Some storms may last a moment while others feel as though they’ll never end. The past several years have been difficult for my family. In January 2014, my stepfather, John, suddenly and unexpectedly passed, leaving us all in a wake of shock and disbelief. Two weeks later, brain tumors were found in my stepmother, Janice, and ultimately she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We had been hit with a double blow. 2014 was difficult, grieving the loss of one loved one and watching another battle cancer. By September, Janice was in remission and cancer-free. Praise the Lord! In November, though, we learned my brother-in-law, David, who was a quadriplegic due to a freak accident five years prior, would not live much longer. And after Thanksgiving, my stepmother became ill and was also fighting for her life.
In the midst of life’s storms, it can be very dark. The world around you keeps moving forward, but you are stuck. The pain is so intense you have no idea how you will ever move on from this place. Fear can be crippling. Paralyzed by our situation, we find it extremely hard to get out of bed. Rejoice?
If anyone knew about hardships, it was Paul. He was frequently imprisoned, flogged, exposed to death, beaten, pelted with stones, shipwrecked, and went days without food, to name a few. In fact, Paul was sitting in a Roman prison cell when he wrote the words, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 NIV
We have a very real enemy who will pounce on any opportunity to snatch us away from our heavenly Father. The storms of life are a great place for Satan to wreak havoc if we give him a foothold. It would be very easy to lose faith during seasons of pain.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:9 NIV
Faith is believing God. It’s easy to believe in God but sometimes impossible to believe Him when walking through hardships and tragedy. When life is crazy, we must believe God’s good and perfect promises will prevail in our lives. My family was surrounded with sorrow and grief. It was no easy task, but I battled to believe God for His promises even though I couldn’t see any.
Stand firm and do not give way to fear and anxiety but allow the peace of God to transcend whatever you may be going through. Submit yourselves in prayer and present, with thanksgiving, your burdens to the Lord. Seek His promises in the Bible and pray them over your circumstances. Turn your fear into praise! On my knees, I surrendered my brother-in-law, who was not a believer, and my stepmother to Jesus. I continued to pray His Word over their lives. David passed on December 15. Two days before he took his last breath, my husband had led him to Christ! What tears of joy! After being a prisoner in his own body for the previous five years, he is now running free with Christ in Heaven. Janice passed on December 23 and, in the months before her death, we watched her become more intimate with the Lord, drawing into Him. Even in death, God is good!
The mind is a powerful tool, and Satan will use it against us as much as we will allow him to. Allowing our thoughts to focus on the negative only gives Satan more power over us, pulling us further from God’s peace. We must be deliberate in filling our minds with thoughts that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable or excellent, no matter our situation.
This doesn’t mean that we will never grieve, be full of sorrow or be angry at our circumstances. We will. But we must fall to our knees, surrendering ourselves to the Lord, and be intentional about keeping our thoughts on Him and His many promises, or our enemy will devour us and take us out while we are weak.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10 NIV