It is almost a year since the world was confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us the past months have been gruesome and horrific. Others were able to adapt to the new normal, but the majority of people are now getting COVID-19 tired. It is not easy to feel or be joyful these days.
In spite of the gloominess that tends to overwhelm us I believe that the apostle Paul is guiding us towards a more joyous mindset. In Philippians 4:4 we hear Paul say: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Philippians is a short book in the New Testament – only four chapters long. But in these four chapters Paul says, “Rejoice… Be joyful” at least sixteen times.
The amazing thing is that Paul, while he was in prison, wrote this book which can be viewed as the most positive book in the Bible. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is something of a missionary thank you letter, but I find it to be much more than that. It is the sharing of Paul’s secret of Christian Joy!
It is obvious that many of us have allowed “thieves” to rob us of our joy.
I would like to name four:
1. Our Circumstances.
Have you ever stopped and considered how few of the circumstances of life are really in our control?
We have no control over when we are born, we have no control over who our parents are, no control over the weather or over the traffic or over the things people say and do to us.
However, even when things go wrong, we can still have joy.
The person whose happiness depends on ideal circumstances is going to be miserable much of the time. When you expect too much, you get disappointed easily.
The secret of joy is finding another keyword that is also often repeated in Philippians – and that’s the word “mind.”
Our joy is found in the way we think – what is our attitude towards our circumstances.
Our filter to view our circumstances is often our own attitude or our thinking. Proverbs 23:7 says: “Be careful how you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts.”
All of us have lost our joy because of people: What they are, what they say, and what they do.
And no doubt we ourselves have contributed to making somebody else unhappy. But we have to live and work with people.
I for one, if I was given a choice between working with people or working alone, I would choose for working alone.
I can be alone for hours working on something, because I have experienced that people sometimes causes delay (but of course that is wrong thinking).
We cannot isolate ourselves and still live to glorify Christ. We are a church, the body of Christ, we need one another. The church is all about people. Like it or not!
The church will not grow without people. That’s why we need to handle people with care.
In Luke 12:15 we read: “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’”
I truly believe that God wants us to be blessed materially. We must see our blessing holistically: Spirit, Soul and Body…so this means everything.
But Jesus warns us: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.”
As we are blessed, we need to share our blessing and not store them up. Because storing them can rob us of the only kind of joy that really lasts.
This is the worst thief of all!
If Paul had wanted to worry, he had all the occasions. But in spite of all the difficulties he faced, Paul does not worry! Instead, he writes a letter filled with joy and tells us how to stop worrying.
The Bible clearly teaches us to avoid worrying.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” —Philippians 4:6 (New Living Translation)
The Greek word for worry (merimnao) is formed by two root words “divided” and “mind.”
To worry means to be pulled in many different directions.
The simple truth is that worrying doesn’t ADD to your life, it SUBTRACTS from your life.
It can subtract hours from your day, but even more it can subtract days, months, and years from your life.
Worry is a bad investment of time and energy no matter how you look at it.
Research has proven that 97% of what we worry about, never happens.
Philippians is a book that explains to us which mindset we should have if we want to experience joy during these troubled times.
Over the past year you and I had to deal with the thieves I have mentioned. We were not always able to guard ourselves against these thieves. In our endeavor to remain joyful during the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to re-vision our outlook towards the future let us take in these words of Paul: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
—Rev. Diana de Graven
Pastor at the Morgensterkerk
Reformed Church in Suriname