Rejoice In The Lord

My rabbi in Miami used to tell me, whenever I was dealing with heavy issues in my life, to “be b’simcha!,” to be happy. I would take a deep breath, and simply respond, “Rabbi, it doesn’t work that way.” When you’re dealing with depression and other related issues, being told to be happy is as effective as a kick in the shin. It used to infuriate me, to be honest, but time is teaching me that maybe my rabbi wasn’t necessarily wrong.

It’s been a few months since I last wrote regularly in this blog, and over that time I have also slipped in my diligence of study. I go to church, I listen to the messages, and I read constantly, but I also let time just drag me along these activities. One of my stated goals for this year was to live intentionally, and I can’t do that if I’m just doing things day after day, week after week, without giving them the thought and attention they deserve.

One of the books I’m currently reading is Uninvited, by Lysa TerKeurst, and it’s taken me by surprise in that it wasn’t what I thought it would be. The book is about dealing with feelings of rejection, of not belonging, and general blah-ness when you feel life is knocking you down. Unsurprising for a Christian book, her answers to dealing with these issues feature connecting with God as a central motif. The way in which she frames that connection with God in order to help with the various issues is what took me by surprise, because in a way, she’s suggesting that we need to be happy with God, to rejoice in the Lord. Basically, she’s telling me to be b’simcha. I’m greatly simplifying TerKeurst’s message here, so please don’t judge the whole book on this one sentence, but I’m also not wrong in stating it like that. Rejoicing in the Lord, in our connection with Him, in his Word, in his love for us, these are the things that will help you deal with those moments when you feel unloved, and left out.

With this in mind, and wanting to regain the intentionality of my life, I choose this moment to rejoice in the Lord, my God, for His kindness is everlasting. I want that rejoicing to fill me, to guide me, to push away all negative feelings that seek to take a hold of me. And let’s face it, in the current social and political climate in the US, it is only God’s love, and His promises, that provide the truest comfort. In a practical sense, as part of my rejoicing in the Lord, I return to my study of His Word itself, the Bible, in addition to any other book I may also read. My goal is to finish all of the New Testament by year’s end, to give it a first read from start to finish, not to dig in at this point, but to just read it through. I also want to come back here for more regularly, to keep thinking out loud in writing, to process books read in order to learn from their pages, and not simply read them and put them aside.

Thinking back to what my rabbi used to say, I now begin to understand that he wasn’t wrong in saying, “Be b’simcha!” He was giving me the (very) abbreviated version of the lesson I am learning now. He was telling me to rejoice in the Lord, our God, and to let that joy push back both rejection and negativity. It’s not a magical formula, and it doesn’t eliminate the bad you are dealing with, but it is a reminder that there is far more than just the bad we’re going through, that ultimately God is in control.