I look back on this year and there is so much to be grateful for. Many of the journeys God has invited me on have been unexpected, and it's been incredible to watch how He has worked in and through them to reveal more of Himself to me and strengthen my heart.
God has also led me on some amazing journeys of stretching, pruning, and learning lessons that though have felt vulnerable in the midst, I am incredibly grateful for. One of those things in particular I feel He has been reinforcing in me is how to rejoice in all things, training in me a new perspective and growing in me a new strength, in particular in the circumstances where perhaps rejoicing would not be the first reaction. I have been reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Thinking upon this verse, I felt the invitation to search out with the Lord and ask the question, "What does it mean to rejoice in all things?"
First things first--always means always, and everything means everything. So, how do we position our hearts to rejoice in all things? To give thanks? What about the hard times? The challenging times? The moments that stretch us and test us? As I look at these things, I feel like the ability to rejoice in all things springs forth from a position of rest--knowing God's heart and His character. It springs forth from a position of trust. I remember what felt like a two-year period where when people would pray over me, they always felt the word "rest." I kid you not, it was SO often, it was undeniable God was trying to teach me something. In the midst of it all, I asked God and prayed. And on one quiet evening, clear as day to my heart, I felt Him say (paraphrased), "Unbelief causes unrest." This revelation brought a new level of freedom to my heart. I realized that an area of unbelief in my heart had produced striving and restlessness, and I was able to repent and give it to the Lord. It was from there the Lord took me a on a sweet journey of learning to rest in Him--to trust in Him more deeply; His timing, His promises, His heart--because trust is the antidote to unbelief. When we truly trust God, we are able to fully let go and see with eyes of faith that He's moving, maybe when our outside world isn't moving or progress feels slow.
Even in the midst of battles we face in life, there is cause for rejoicing and giving thanks. This is an area I feel God has been encouraging me in over the past months. In honesty, these moments can feel rough, however, God is the only one who can work good from them and use them to strengthen our faith. One way I feel He has been encouraging me to dismantle discouragement that the enemy may want to bring is by choosing to thank God that I get the opportunity to exercise authority in Christ by choosing truth. Not that I seek warfare or openly invite these moments in, but when they do come, I find that changing my perspective and choosing to rejoice in the midst gives me a strength to walk through them and works out a perseverance in my heart that God works in me. God always works good.
"It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make Your saving help my shield, and Your right hand sustains me; Your help has made me great." (Psalm 18:31-35)
Praise defeats darkness, because where praise is, His presence is, and where His presence is, the enemy flees. The worship we release from our hearts to God actually serves as a weapon. When our lives are filled with rejoicing and praise, it leaves no room for discouragement or a foothold for the enemy.
I believe as we exercise thankfulness, it will become a more familiar response in our lives, even in the midst of trying circumstances. God's nature is good, and every thing He does is good, so there is always something to praise Him for. He's always pouring out good and beauty into every moment of our lives. The more we get to know Him, the more our eyes will be trained to see His hand in every detail of our lives, building our ability to rejoice in all things. Being reminded and standing firmly on the truths that He is in control, that He loves us, and that He ALWAYS works good will help posture our hearts. In this, I continue to grow. Thankfulness and rejoicing turns our eyes towards Jesus. May we find our hearts rejoicing in all things.
Be blessed. Be empowered by His Spirit.