We are instructed in scripture to rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16), but I must confess that this concept has given me a great deal of trouble at certain points in my life. Rejoice always? How is that even possible?
We all know that circumstances do not always bring joy, and so I have come to understand this instruction is about something deeper than reacting to what we are experiencing. There must be something within us that is unchangeable, unshakeable.
I have known people who remain joyful in the face of really difficult situations in their lives. There is a well of hope, thanksgiving, and joy that seems to never run dry. I want that in my life but I lose focus. What do they know that I don’t know? What do they do that I’m not doing? I ask because too often I find myself wrapped up in my circumstances and I get distracted, discouraged, and disappointed.
That’s a long way from joyful.
So how does one do it? Rejoice always? I am learning that being intentional about cultivating gratitude is an important part of consistently living joyfully. The season of Lent is almost upon us and in some church traditions, people are encouraged to sacrifice something for Lent as a recognition of Christ’s sacrifice for us. Some years I give up something like a favorite food or time with a hobby. Other times I try to be intentional about growing a characteristic inside me like offering kind words to my children or practicing times of silence.
This year for Lent, I’m going to invite my family to participate along with me as I focus on practicing having a grateful heart. (This is where you can pause and imagine the onset of grumbles and eye rolls of boy children when they get this horrific news. No matter, I will press on.) For the 40 days of Lent, we are going to keep a family gratitude journal. Every day we will select and write down five things we are grateful for.
Along with that, I am going to write down things of my own that I am particularly thankful for. God has been doing a mighty work in me and I am experiencing healing in places I never dreamed possible. I have so much to be thankful for at this point in my life and I’m more aware of that truth than ever before. I want to acknowledge this with intentional praise.
My hope is that this practice will give our family reasons to celebrate the seemingly small gifts that are all around us. I want it to help us seize the opportunity to be deeply satisfied with our lives just as they are. Developing an appreciation for who we are and what we already have will help us pour into a well of rejoicing that we can later draw from during difficult circumstances.
I also think it will be an exercise that grows me personally. I desire to be a woman who not only knows her blessings, but feels them. Really feels them. I want my life to be an outpouring of love for others in recognition of the many, many ways He shows His love for me. Rejoice always. Yes, I want that. Peace!