This week I have been reading through Philippians, and I love how each time I visit a passage I get something new out of it — generally depending on my circumstances and God knowing what I need to hear that day.
Oftentimes I skim those introductory opening verses because they aren’t really the “meat” of the chapter, but I got hung-up on Philippians 3:1 this week:
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.”
There are lots of ways to read this, but for me, at this time in my life, I read it to mean that rejoicing in the Lord is a safeguard.
A safeguard is defined as:
- something that serves as a protection or defense or that ensures safety.
- a permit for safe passage.
- a guard or convoy.
- a mechanical device for ensuring safety.
- to guard; protect; secure.
As someone with chronic depression/anxiety, the emotion joy does not come to me as easily as it might come to others. I used to beat myself up a lot, thinking that I wasn’t a good enough Christian because I didn’t feel joy very often. Now I realize that I have been looking at joy the wrong way. I think that I often equate joy with happiness, but those are definitely not the same things. I have been reflecting more and more on how to make the concepts of joy and rejoicing make more sense to me, on a personal level, and for me that involves recognizing that joy is as much a verb as it is a noun. It is an action, it requires a diligence, a re-orienting of my perspective around praise and worship — rather than apathy.
This week I have been really trying to practice the art of rejoicing. Each negative thought, each moment of total fear and anxiety or absolute sadness, I interrupt with praise. This has taken many different forms, but I have found comfort in repeating lines from songs in my head, such as “your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips,” by Aaron Schust. There is comfort in the repetition, and, even more than that, it requires that I meditate on God’s goodness, that I actively rejoice in His promises.
It would be easy if joy was something that just came easily for everyone. Accept Christ as your Savior then BOOM: a massive dose of serotonin. But that wouldn’t test us and refine us. It wouldn’t require total trust and perseverance on our parts. And, it wouldn’t allow us to develop a safeguard, to build up a wall of protection based on the act of rejoicing.
I encourage you this week to think of rejoicing as an action, as a means of protecting yourself from all that the world might throw your way.
If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience, either by writing a guest post, or doing an interview with me. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.