Rejoice* in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!
I have always thought that this command from the letter to the Philippians is an easy one to follow. I have thought of it mostly while singing at Mass, because of the natural connection between hymns of praise and the act of rejoicing.
I often hum a hymn of thanksgiving to myself as I go about my day, glad to be rejoicing and feeling grateful for all the blessings God has showered down upon me so abundantly. I even remember sometimes to say a prayer of gratitude even when things are going wrong. I might still be worried, I think, but at least I break the cycle long enough to be grateful for something. Or so I thought.
Breaking the cycle of worry to give praise is a good thing. It lifts our spirits and our hearts back to God, where they belong. But have we done what we really should do? Yes, we have, because we have turned our hearts back to God.
Have we done enough? Maybe not, if we immediately return to a state of mistrust. What good does it do us to sing a hymn of praise if we immediately return to our worrying as though we had not just praised God for his mercy and his saving grace? Is His grace there one moment and gone the next? Do we not believe that He saves always and forever? Yes, we do. So then why do we praise Him and rejoice, and then immediately forget?
I find myself meditating on this stumbling block this season of Lent… I continually catch myself in this cycle of praise and ingratitude. I sing bless the Lord, and then I start fretting over this problem at work, or this other relationship dilemma and how to fix it. In short, I sing I am grateful and then I complain, fret, worry, blame myself, place guilt. At the core, I am placing my attention everywhere but on Christ.
How does anyone go about breaking this cycle of belief and disbelief? After all problems and trials do not magically disappear while we are praising God. It is right to pray about them, seeking knowledge and grace. I think the key is where our focus is. Is it on the problem, or is it on Christ? If our focus is on Christ, then we will be able to praise God no matter what is happening externally. Our problems seem smaller because we are focused on Someone bigger than our problems. We are focused on the eternal.
The solution is as simple as it is difficult. Keep your eyes and heart focused on Christ and it will be easier to rejoice in the Lord always and forevermore.
Copyright 2015, Carol Ann Chybowski