YES! I can remember the first time I read this passage in college:
“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 heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:4-7 NIV – underline emphasis mine
I sat back and thought…Yeah right. There is no way you can honestly have Joy in all circumstances. Some things are just hard! I mean really f-ing hard!! Sometimes there is nothing in you that wants to be joyful or thankful. Why do we, as Christians, need to always force a smile and attempt to have hope and joy. I knew that the author, Paul, was writing these lines in prison and was possibly facing execution…so his life wasn’t so stellar. But still…there was NO WAY you could be authentic and have this be true…always.
Until this year. This year taught me how I had been thinking about this passage wrong for the last decade. I was so focused on the underlined parts…rejoice ALWAYS…be thankful no matter how hard the circumstances ALWAYS…and trying to force myself to feel these things. I missed the fact that I can just come as I am (crushed, frustrated, broken hearted, tears streaming down my face, hopeless) and PRAY and ASK…and it is God GIVING me peace…a peace that doesn’t actually make sense but is real. It is a gift. And that gift then inspires joy and thanksgiving and hope.
What I need to say now is that Joy for me doesn’t equal the feeling of happiness. There were dark days this year when the emotional pain was so intense that I thought it would be easier if the cancer just took me. Waking up every morning was too hard. I was tired of being surrounded by the uncertainties of my health and people I care about dying. I didn’t know how to face the foundations of my marriage being shaken. I didn’t even want to go to the super market because I would have to stretch my exhausted chemo-brain to interact in even the simplest Dutch phrases. I didn’t (and honestly most days still don’t) FEEL happy. I would change a lot about my current situation but in the midst of it all there is a peace and a joy in my core that I can’t explain…and if you look at my circumstances doesn’t make sense. But it truly is what God promised.
I have begun my “re-integration” program at work and it has been great to see my coworkers again and to begin to establish a normal routine. I have had at least 12 people tell me that I’m glowing…not an adjective normally used. I say thank you and know that if it were up to my own strength this year I would have crumbled and given in to despair a while ago. But I am truly thankful to Jesus that I didn’t.