Rejoice & Relax!

Biblical shalom involves wholeness, delight, and a sense of meaning and purpose for all of God’s creation. Shalom is the way things are supposed to be! This includes four facets: peace with nature, peace in society, peace with ourselves, and peace with God. This is the second in the series on peace with ourselves.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” I have vivid memories of this verse coming to mind in 1971 when Marge and I were driving back to Vienna from Munich with our two little kids. Our car, an old Skoda, broke down on us and stranded us along the highway; here we were with children and very little money, since we were living as a family of four on a research scholarship designed to support one person. I remember Marge and I asking each other, “Are we suppose to rejoice now?”

After getting the car towed to a repair shop in Munich, I got Marge and the two kids on a train back to Vienna, where we were living for a year while I did my doctoral research, and I stayed in Munich while the mechanics analyzed our car. Their pronouncement was memorable: “Ganz kaput” (totally dead!). At that point, I told them that the car was theirs and I also headed back to Vienna. Rejoice in the Lord always – you’ve got to be kidding me!

What a lesson that was! This experience and others that followed, including inheriting the six children of Marge’s sister and brother-in-law, were powerful lessons in how God can use crises to teach us to trust him.

The Apostle Paul is a remarkable example of how to live out this truth. Listen to his words: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (Philippians 4: 4-7, The Message).

The amazing thing is that Paul wrote this letter from prison, where he was facing probable execution for his faith, and yet his principal message is his joy in the Lord – a theme he mentions sixteen times in this letter! “Rejoice in the Lord always” means there is never any reason to be anxious. If we trust God, we can have confidence that the Lord has our best interests in mind.

The Apostle Paul’s message reminds us of what Jesus said in the “Sermon on the Mount.” “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life that the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. [Or the car you drive, like a Skoda – an editorial insertion.] Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds” (Matthew 6:25-27, The Message).

Peace with ourselves involves trusting in God’s protection and not being fearful. It involves seeking to rejoice always, even in the tough times. This enables us to relax in the hands of God – we are indeed in good hands!

So What?

  • Despite clear Biblical teaching on this topic, many of us are fearful people and we are constantly trying to ensure our safety and guarantee our long-term security, instead of living with greater openness and confidence in God’s provision. Why are we afraid to trust in what Jesus said?
  • Can you think of a time when rejoicing in God’s blessings in your life was an anecdote for fear? Can you think of a way to do this now?