On this January morning, do you have reason to rejoice?
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Psalm 5:11 – NIV
Have you ever shook your head in bewilderment over some decision you made, some action you took? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “Whoa…what was I thinking?”
Well, I asked myself that question this year. Several times, in fact. My choice made sense last January. It still worked in February. But come March, I wondered, “What was I thinking?”
The decision in question was about the selection of my one word for 2020. Each year, I pick a word to focus on, one word to guide my thoughts and attitudes throughout the year. For those of you that have been following my blog for awhile, do you recall my choice last year? It was “Rejoice!” Yep, that was it. Now, you are asking it, aren’t you? “What were you thinking?”
If there was ever a year when the word “rejoice” would feel inappropriate, it was 2020. The winds of March blew in a worldwide disaster. The months that followed were filled with sickness, strife, fear, frustration, and most of all, loss. New phrases were coined: social distancing, stay safe, “The Covid.” New norms invaded our daily life: wear your mask, wash your hands, wait six feet apart. Hospitals were overwhelmed, loved ones separated. Jobs were lost. Working from home became the new normal. Everything was cancelled, from church to school, from weddings to funerals, from concerts to ballgames to haircuts. Overlaid upon all that hardship was the political strife, the protests, the cultural chaos we struggled to comprehend. Doom and gloom became the constant fare of the air waves.
The distress got personal too, hitting home with my mother in law’s emergent open heart surgery followed by a series of serious post-surgical complications. There was the constant worry for my aging parents, stuck on the farm, socially isolated and me four hours away, unable to help them day to day. The summer sun eased things a bit, but November brought the passing of my father in law.
Now I ask you. Does any of that make you feel like rejoicing?
Here’s what I wrote in my journal on January 5, 2020. “Rejoice is my one word for 2020. I chose it because it encompasses trust, thankfulness, and praise. A heart full of those things is a heart full of joy. Joy is how I choose to live this year, not that it will be all perfect, but that God will be with me and for me whatever lies ahead. I am not alone, and for that, I rejoice.
Hmmm… Another pause, more reflection. Maybe it was the right word choice after all. No, it wasn’t a perfect year. Far from it. But God was indeed with me, every day, all along the difficult way.
Here’s the surprise. There was joy. Even amid the hardships of 2020, there were countless opportunities to be filled with joy. There was the smile on my mother in law’s face when she finished her first one mile walk around the lake. There was joy as I watched her return to her former feisty self, feeling good and strong. There was joy when I made it to the farm, joy in the cherished conversations with my folks. More joy came from online church services, my first haircut, white dogwood blooms, bright summer flowers, friend’s voices on the phone, down the driveway or across the porch.
Then there was the trip! There was joy on the mountaintop, joy by the riverside. Joy came with the sunrise, the red rocks, the cottonwoods, the aspens, the canyon that stretched to the horizon. Yes, 63 days that brought joy upon joy.
Perhaps rejoice was the right word for 2020 after all. The verb “rejoice” is defined as “to be joyful.” Rejoice is not passive, waiting for happiness to find us. Rejoice is active, reaching out, taking hold, choosing to be joyful.
In my journal, I wrote that rejoice is about trust, thankfulness and praise. It is about understanding that life won’t be easy, that things won’t be perfect, but they can still be good. Even in hard times, there are countless reasons to give thanks and praise. We can know joy because we know the giver of joy. We can sing praises because we know the One who put the song in our heart.
We can walk the hard roads of this life because we don’t have to walk them alone. God walks by our side, and in His way and in His timing, works all things together for good.
Perhaps the lesson of 2020 is about how we bear our burdens. Do we shoulder them in disgust and despair or do we accept life’s hardships while hanging onto hope? For our hope lies in knowing that we never bear our burdens alone. God remains with us always, and for that, we can rejoice!
Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
Isaiah 49:13 – NIV
O Lord God Almighty, we rejoice in Your Glorious Name! You are our God, and You are with us always, even in the hardships, even in the losses. You bear our burdens with us. You will see us through the present storms. Help us hang onto our hope and find reason to rejoice every single day.
In the Joyous Name of Jesus, we give thanks and praise,
New Year’s Blessings,