We are in Target, she sees a toy that catches her eye, and suddenly she simply has to have it. Not only does she have to possess it, but the fate of the entire world is dependent upon her having this desired item. I gently try to correct her, which sometimes works… and sometimes doesn’t. Sometimes we have a meltdown right there in Aisle 23, halfway between home goods and shoes. She wants it.
In many ways, my own mind is like taking my three year old shopping. “If I just had more _______, then I would finally be happy.” I’ve often thought that, or something similar to it, over the course of my life. If I just had that new car, that new job, that new possibility, then I would finally have what I have always wanted. My happiness is dependent upon whatever I desire at the time.
We believe that we have an “inalienable right” to happiness. I mean, it is right there in our Declaration of Independence. In fact, we think our own happiness is self-evident. It is equitable to “life” and “liberty.” We want a good life, we want the freedom to have whatever we want, and we believe that will make us happy.
But is our happiness, our joy, dependent upon what we have? Is our joy dependent on our stuff? I love the random lyrics thrown into the Train song “Calling on Angels.” They randomly spout out in the middle of the bridge: In a world that what we want is only what we want until we get it and it’s ours… Things don’t usually bring us the happiness we desire; they often simply bring us the desire for something new-er. A new-er job. A new-er toy. A new-er spouse. A new-er “inalienable” dream, whatever that may be.
I am struck by Paul’s calling to joy. He tells the Philippians “Rejoice.” It is a command; it is imperative. Look at his message below:
Further, my brothers and sisters, 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. (Phil. 3:1)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:4-7)
Paul calls them to joy. Indeed, it is his message throughout the epistle, referring to rejoicing or having joy eleven different times. And Paul calls them to joy in spite of the fact that:
- He currently sits in prison, in chains for the Gospel
- He is facing an uncertain future
- He has struggled to have enough during his incarceration
- People are continuing to spite and persecute him even while imprisoned
- The Philippians themselves are facing persecution
But this is nothing new for Paul. His ministry in Philippi occurred under similar circumstances, beaten and imprisoned improperly. Yet during that night he and Silas continued to rejoice, singing praises and hymns. The cell became a time of worship. This isn’t what he wanted, and he definitely wasn’t happy about the circumstances, but he had learned to have joy in spite of the circumstances.
And I think the key to that is found in what he writes soon after: 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (4:11-13)
I want us to reflect on that for today. Read through the passage above. What strikes you from his wording? What is impactful for you? Can you identify with this situation? How does verse 13 strike you in light of the passage in which it is found?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. You are welcome to comment or email me.