Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.
– Philippians 3:1a (ESV)
It’s a straightforward statement. Aside from the humor I see in the fact that Paul says “Finally” here and then launches into another topic – he revisits “finally” in chapter 4, verse 8 (man, I love Paul! – I find this to be a profound sentence.
Notice what he doesn’t say: “I hope you have joy in the Lord.” Or “May God bless you so that you have joy” (though God certainly does that).
He says, simply, “rejoice”. It’s a command.
In the midst of all our luxury and plenty, freedom and opportunity, we certainly can complain, can’t we? We’re experts at it.
And yet the command is to rejoice, not complain! A complaint carries with it a sense of misplaced privilege, and an entirely unmerited claim to entitlement. A complaint is the astonishment of a selfish soul when it discovers that it isn’t, in fact, God.
Joy, on the other hand, is the delighted response – a choice, mind you – of the heart when the fact of one’s own unworthiness is uncovered, when the smallness of who we are compared to the Lord is made clear to our minds, and we realize the utter grace with which each breath is drawn. We are not destroyed! In fact, if we know Christ, we are beloved children of the King of the Universe, adopted and redeemed.
It’s when we place that in towering perspective against our own small and petty trials, claims, and conceits that complaints die away and joy takes root.
Joy is a practice. And when life comes crashing down, and our world crumbles around us, it’s a choice we can still make, if we have trained our hearts to sing its song.
When my world crumbles, may I respond with joy, beyoond the comprehension of a world that slouches in darkness.