Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16–18
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!
The last two years have seen an extraordinary level of change.
Our work patterns, social interactions, methods of communication, holiday arrangements, and family celebrations have all been impacted. When the ground of our lives shifts beneath us, it is natural to reach out for something stable to hold onto. A ‘rule of life’ provides such support.
The idea of a rule of life developed in Christian monastic communities, the best-known being that of St Benedict. It is simply a rhythm of prayer, reflection, or other spiritual practices that help us integrate our faith into our daily lives. Not only does it provide stability but, like a trellis supporting a plant, it helps us to grow and flourish.
In this three-part series of weekly reflections, we will focus on a simple ‘rule’: rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.
Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians was addressed to new believers who were suffering persecution. Given their circumstances, this command to ‘rejoice always’ has to be seen as a matter of obedient choice, not dependent on feelings: a choice to sing, and to express joyful worship, as Paul himself did when imprisoned. Sometimes we have to push through to joy in the Lord. We often see this in the psalms. The psalmist begins by crying out to God for help amid a life-threatening trial. But by the end of the psalm, he’s praising the Lord and rejoicing in him, even though his circumstances haven’t yet changed.
Paul is not asking us to ignore or neutralise our God-given emotions of sorrow or pain. The rejoicing he encourages goes hand in hand with hope. We hope because Jesus is now enthroned as Lord. When we trust deeply that God is present with us and holds us safe, we can let go of our anxious need to know how tomorrow will look, or what will happen next month or next year. Instead, we attend to the many signs of God’s love within and around us – all of which are reasons to rejoice.
And so, in all the uncertainty of today, may we, with the psalmist, declare: ‘This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it’ (Psalm 118:24 ESV).
Bev Shepherd is Prayer Journeys Project Leader at LICC and an executive coach.
How might the exhortation to ‘rejoice always’ impact how you approach the daily tasks on your frontline today? Join the conversation in the comments below.