The Middle

Written on

September 5, 2018

“Rejoice in the Lord always, 
Again I will say, rejoice.”
Philippians 4:4

I always assumed that this verse was found in Psalms. I mean it sounds like a Psalm. It sounds like something David would have written and sung and danced while singing.
But, instead, this passage is attributed to Paul. He wrote it to the believers in Philippi, believers facing immense persecution for their faith, who would have found this exhortation hard to swallow. 
While I cannot relate to their persecution, I do know how hard this verse is to obey . . . 
Rejoicing in the Lord is easy when everyone is healthy and happy, when things are going well and turning out how I had imagined and envisioned. Expectations are being met. Life and God are both good. 
However, “always” means “always” and life isn’t always good – even though God is. I should still be able to rejoice when life is busy, when it is stressful, uncertain and not-at-all like I want it to be. Why? Because even when life isn’t, He still is – good.
When the “bad” things happen and I find myself in the midst of negative life circumstances, I have learned that Paul’s instructions to rejoice are invaluable. I NEED to worship, to turn my attention from my situation and from my feelings to the One I know to be Lord over them- all my feelings as well as all my situations. 
But, the hardest place for me to “rejoice always” is in the middle. Praise and worship comes easy for me in life’s highs. It is my go-to for survival in life’s lows. Yet, we don’t seem to live day-to-day in either extreme. Most of my life anyway is somewhere in the middle. 
The middle is the mundane, the everyday, the routine. The middle is the endless piles of clothes and dishes. The middle is the way my almost 5 year old messes her room up as soon as we clean it up. 
The middle is where my contentment is lost and I begin to wonder if what I do really matters. 
The middle is where Satan attacks my weakest points and causes me to doubt. Questions creep from the farthest reaches of my mind, clouding my view with insecurities and fears. What is my purpose? Who really cares? Why should I care?
Then come the comparisons. If I am honest this “envy parade” seems endless and is a constant struggle. I wish I was doing what she is. Why won’t God use me like that? If only, my house were a little bigger or my wallet a little fatter or my waist a little smaller – then I could do more, have more, be more  – All for God and His purposes – of course!
Yet, that is when my focus couldn’t be farther from Him and His purposes. My eyes have fallen from His throne, His glory and His goodness to my agenda, my purposes and my definition of success. 
This is the place, the middle, where it is the hardest for me to rejoice always. 
I read this quote online a little while back and it has stuck with me:
“Cease endlessly striving for what you want to do and learn to love must by done.”

I don’t think this German philosopher would hold to my theology of God, Christ and His church, but his words here are definitely wise and worth taking into consideration. – As a Christ-follower, my life is no longer about me and what I want to do, even if the things I want to do are things I want to do for Him. I have surrendered my life to Him, making Him my Lord and relinquishing all rights to myself.

Each day I should rejoice with the knowledge that He goes before me, is with me and guards me from behind. Here, especially in the middle is where He grows my faith to appreciate the highs and endure the lows.

Yes, these “middle” days are filled with lots of loads of what “must be done.” However, if I fight this mental battle by capturing the thoughts that are contrary and sinful, and if I choose to rejoice always – the battle will be won and I will come to appreciate and even love the things that must be done.

How am I sure of this victory? Christ’s death and resurrection assures the ultimate victory over my sinful ways. As He works in me and I work in Him, God gives me the switch and the ability to flip it. What I have to do becomes what I get to do.

I can appreciate the laundry because He has opened my eyes to realize that each sock represents an incredible blessing – a person who enriches my life, whom I love and who may not always be there. I can pray protection over the foot it will cover – that those little feet may be careful where they go. That chore loses it’s power to sway my attitude and to shrink my vision of God.

Gratitude replaces discontentment. Comparison gives way to appreciation. Fears subside into growing faith.

When I rejoice in the Lord always, especially here in the middle, my focus stays fixed on God. He dictates my perspective and leaves me longing to stay in His presence.

And as David did say in the Psalms that is a pretty good place to be:

“You make known to me the path of life; 
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Psalm 16:11

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