In the letters of Paul, he consistently exhorts us to be joyful in all circumstances. You may read these and think, “Well, that is a nice platitude but my circumstances are different.” Really? Do you know the circumstances that Paul endured?
Paul’s sufferings as an Apostle of Jesus Christ are chronicled in 2 Corinthians 11:24-33. Paul endured:
- 5 times, 40 lashes less one on his back (195 lashes total)
- 3 times, beaten with rods
- 1 time stoned and left for dead
- 3 times shipwrecked and adrift at sea
- On journeys, danger from rivers, robbers, his own people, Gentiles, danger in the city, wilderness, and at sea, danger from false brethren
- Toil and hardship
- Many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure
- Daily anxiety for all the churches
- Let down in a basket through a hole in a wall to escape capture
And this man said, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4). Paul wrote some of his letters while chained in a prison cell. At the end of his life, he was beheaded for his faith in Jesus Christ. Do you want to trade your circumstances for those of Paul?
To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes 5:16-18). Read that passage again, slowly…rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances. In all of our hardships, distresses, pain, and sufferings, we are to rejoice and give God thanks.
You might be wondering how we can rejoice if a loved one has cancer; our marriage is struggling, or our children have wandered away from the Church. The key is understanding joy. It is not giddiness. Christian joy is rooted in the fact that God is going to put everything right. Nothing can take way this joy. Advent is time to prepare for the return of Christ. Joy is confidence that this is going to happen. Our current suffering is not in vain if it is united to the sufferings of Christ on the cross.
Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (see Gal 5:22-23). We must choose joy in quiet assurance that God is in charge of every detail of our lives. Let the Holy Spirit control your heart. Abandon yourself to the Spirit and let His joy permeate your very being.
So, what does this look like practically in family life?
- Make a habit of telling your spouse and your children each day at least one thing about them that you are grateful for.
- In your own prayer time at the end of each day, get on your knees and tell God 10 things you are grateful for.
- Do a scriptural word study on thanksgiving and gratitude. We suggest a good online concordance such as BibleGateway. You can plug each of these words in the search box, choose your favorite translation of the Bible (we use the Revised Standard Catholic Edition or the New American Bible which is the translation used at Mass), and a multitude of scripture references will be found.
Here are some suggested references to get you started…
Finally, we suggest that you paste the following passage on your bathroom mirror and pray with it as you begin each day…
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17
If you put on these spiritual clothes every morning, any darkness, depression, or despair that your may be feeling will be lifted as you joyfully sing, in thanksgiving, and praise to God for His bountiful blessings.