As it turns out, this week is a perfect time to start a study on being joyful. I have a lot swirling around in my head and my soul is just longing to stop and enjoy God's presence. So that is what I'm doing today, with this blog post. As I just read through Phil. 1:1-11, a few things stood out to me. This isn't going to be an exhaustive study, but just an overview of what struck me as I read. So bear with me if it's not a perfect "exegesis" (Bible College word) of the text. :)
Verse 3 is where my eyes first land:
"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I'm sure of this, that he who began good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
Did you ever notice how easy it is to find the negative? Why is that? I could be having a perfectly fine day, and yet I will still take the time to notice the things that went wrong, and recount those events to anyone who will listen. God is really doing a work in my heart and showing me that this needs to change. In this passage, I think of Paul, who was imprisoned, without much hope of ever being released. As he reflected on his relationship with the church at Philippi, what was he thinking about? He was focused on all that had been accomplished for the sake of the gospel through these believers. Every time he remembered them, he thought of them and prayed for them with joy and thankfulness. It would have been easy for me to sit there and worry about them. "Oh no, what if they forget what I've taught them, what if they are led astray by false teaching, what if they get into petty arguments and cause divisions in the body?" Or I would start remembering all of the negative things that had happened in the church and hope and pray that these things don't ever happen again. But Paul didn't waste his time on all that. Instead, he focused on the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in each one of them, and as a church collectively. He, I'm sure, remembered the rough patches, and the person or two that he'd had a disagreement with over the years. But it wasn't his focus. His focus was praising God for them, longing for them, and confidently assuring them that God is working in and through them.
His desire is for them to continue to grow and bring God more glory. That is what all of us should want, both for ourselves and for the believers around us! Now, back to the present. God sure picked a good day for me to really dig in and rely on Him more as my joy, my strength, and my comfort! Today has been a doozy. Is that a word? Because I've heard it many times, but I have no idea how to spell it. haha! Anyway. It was harder than most, but not impossible. It started off a little rocky when Chloe's tummy decided to send breakfast back up. I don't remember if I prayed initially or not, but I was able to find the calm place long enough to think to strap Elijah into his high chair so I could tend to her. This usually results in a screaming baby, but God gave that little boy a desire to play quietly for about 15 minutes, long enough for me to do all I needed to do. A coincidence? I think not! :)
Right after that, Elijah got his hand caught in the bathroom door. Still not sure how that one happened. But I felt SO guilty for not catching him before that happened! As I sat with him, Chloe came over and kissed his hand. Then, while I was crying my eyes out (because I really did feel like it was my fault), Elijah looked up at me and started giggling. He was laughing at my "ugly cry" face, I'm sure. But it was enough for me to find the joy, yet again.
A few minutes later, I was sitting on the floor, both kids clinging to me. I said, "We need to pray, guys." So that's what we did. Chloe prayed her little 2-year-old prayer and I prayed a short, desperate-sounding one for strength. When we said "Amen", Elijah stopped clinging to me and crawled off to play happily. I think he felt the peace that had just washed over me.
In the midst of all this, a friend brought some clothes to our house for Chloe. We found some things that she really is needing for winter! Also, there was a plastic shopping bag full of those little "ball pit" balls. We went out on the porch and Chloe was beginning to fuss for lunch, which I hadn't had a chance to make yet (she doesn't have a tummy bug, thankfully, another thing to be joyful about!). I grabbed that bag, ripped it open, and instantly there were smiles and laughter all around! More joy.
AND, I'm so thankful my husband has a job close by that allows him to come home at lunch time if I really need him to! He came and helped me fix lunch and get the kids all settled before heading off back to work. That is easy to be thankful about!
This may seem like little stuff. And really, it is. In the grand scheme of life, these are the details. But God is in the details of my life, just as He is in yours. There aren't compartments of life for God. He doesn't exist only in those parts of life where we go to Church, or when we have a Bible study, or sing worship songs. He is there for every part. When I'm sitting at home folding laundry, reading, doing dishes, playing with the kids, or just resting...He is in those places, too.
So...at the end of the day, if you ask me how my day was, what am I going to focus on? The lows, the failures, the stress? Or am I going to remember how God was there in those moments, giving me peace, calm, and yes, even JOY? Let's remember Paul's example. When reflecting, he could have recounted the things that bothered him, but instead, he just thanked God and prayed that these believers would be "filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (v.11)
Your turn...what are your thoughts on this passage? Did something else stand out to you as you read? Do you struggle (like I do) to find joy in the craziness of life?