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“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” ~ Philippians 4:4, NIV

As this is one of my favorite verses (actually, the whole passage is one of my all-time favorites..), I find myself going back to it often. Like really often. And I love it.

This verse reminds me to keep a smile, even when it’s hard. Even when I don’t want to. But it’s not a forced smile.. because this verse makes me smile. It causes smiles for me.

One day fairly recently when I reread this verse for the 4,987,562,316th time, a different part of it caught my eye. A part that I know by heart so well… maybe too well. I think that just maybe I know this verse so well that I tend to forget parts of it sometimes.

I think so often I just remember “rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!”… which is completely good stuff. But it’s not good at the expense of the rest of the verse.

Even better than “rejoice!” is “rejoice in the Lord!” He is the whole reason I can smile in the first place. He made my smile, He gave me life, He placed me in this specific time and place, with each person perfectly chosen to intersect with or become part of my life.. He chose all of this specifically for me. For right now. For such a time as this.

He also is the only reason I can smile in the midst of hard times. He is good always. No matter what. And beyond His goodness in the here and now, look at what He’s done. The fact that He would love me enough to die for me.. so that we could spend forever together in heaven.. that by itself is reason to rejoice.

In so many ways, He is the source of joy. When life is a bowl of cherries or a chocolate bar (take your pick 😉 ), I must rejoice in the Lord. If I don’t, I’ll get caught up in my circumstances and not have my attention where it needs to be – on Him. In the same way, when life just plain old stinks (and it happens), I’ve got to rejoice in the Lord. Just like in the easy peasy times, if I’m not rejoicing in Him in the stinky times, my focus isn’t where it needs to be – whether I’m running to Him to fix stuff or trying to fix it on my own. Rejoicing in Him always – in the good times and the not-so-good – is essential to a life lived for and with Jesus.

Rejoicing in Him.. is a crucial part of letting go and trusting Him. Because I can’t honestly rejoice in Him without surrendering. No matter how much I might try to talk myself into it, it just doesn’t work. True rejoicing comes with surrender. Complete surrender.

And when I surrender, I find again what a blessing it is to let go of all the stuff I tried to keep hold of and control.. but never really had within my grasp anyway. Because I can’t control my life. I can only live in step with the Spirit and trust God to take care of everything.. which He is so very good at. 🙂