Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying.
The plan for an adventurous weekend was set. Fly into Maryland on Friday. Pick up a rental car and drive to Philadelphia to explore. Return to Baltimore for crab cakes. Spend Saturday with Grace and Golda, two of my sisters, visiting where Golda’s husband grew up. Set aside the afternoon for a family service, completing the day with a family meal and special time together. Sunday would hold a last few hours together before we flew back to Texas. It was a great plan, but that is not what happened.
Within hours of arriving in Maryland, my sister Grace got a call that our mom was sick and was being taken via ambulance to the hospital. A getaway weekend for my sister turned into hours of second guessing herself and rearranging a flight back home. How do you choose joy when your mom is in the hospital, and you are far away?
Worry and anxiety tried to steal the trip. Mom’s oxygen level was low. Her temperature was decreasing steadily. We were driven to prayer and that is when God gave us an amazing gift. Prayer focused our eyes on the Great Healer, reminding us that He was with mom. He was with us.
The very emotions that Satan tried to use to derail our focus were instead flags that pointed us to Christ. With each phone call, we could not help but pray. And each prayer brought us to a place where we were forced to remember that God is the omnipresent one. He could be with our mom when we could not.
Treatment options that the doctors and nurses posed over the phone pushed us back to prayer. God is the giver of wisdom if we will ask. And we did ask. He brought peace that we were making the best decision we could with the information we had. Prayer brought joy that God had us handling these decisions together and not alone.
Some statements like “choose joy” make it seem so simple. Yet scripture is faithful to point to the ability to have joy and hope even in times of trouble. True joy is not something we choose. This joy is given to us by God, not because we are choosing joy, but because we are choosing Him.
When we turn our eyes, our hope, our prayers toward the Father, He reminds us of the power and majesty of the one in whom we trust. He reminds us that He is faithful regardless of the circumstance. Seeking God continually is the key. When we put our hope in our own ability to choose joy, we will fall short. When we are praying continually, He opens our eyes to the truth that He is the great “I Am.” Only He can bring true joy. Only He can supply true peace.
Over the weekend, we prayed a lot because we were scared. Yet that is exactly what scripture tells us to do, “Pray continually.” Our time together was different than we expected, yet it was still wonderful. We found ways to laugh. We pointed out the beautiful landscape around us. We found respite in the beautiful church where the Saturday afternoon service was held. We took advantage of every moment we had together to encourage and support each other.
Though our trip did not go according to our plan, God was still with us. And we were still together. We were given a choice. We could focus on the problem, or we could focus on the Problem Solver. Prayer helped us focus on Christ. He brought us together with the purpose of praising and thanking Him for the people in our lives. A challenging situation led us to focus on Christ, praying continually. And that made all the difference, providing joy even amid difficulty. - Caroline Poe, Minister of Discipleship & Pastoral Care
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
And there are no grapes on the vines;
Even though the olive crop fails,
And the fields lie empty and barren;
Even though the flocks die in the fields,
And the cattle barns are empty,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!