Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Psalm 85:6 ESV
During the pandemic many of us began to get just a small taste of the loneliness that those living in long term care face daily. During the height of the lockdowns people rarely left home and when forced to go out, there was both social distancing, as well as the wearing of masks making everyone seem anonymous. Some of us dealt with the isolation by watching endless reruns, others rearranged the furniture or put together 1,000-piece puzzles. While these activities distracted us for a while, our problem was that God created us for community. We were created to share life together. Now, after more than a year of social separation many of us have forgotten how to connect. The good news is that God has a restoration plan. Notice that today’s reading focuses on the word “Us”. Just as the Lord’s Prayer begins with, “Our Father”. This Psalm of David begins with the cry, “Revive us!”
His prayer reminds me of a story my father told me of his time in the war. During the invasion of Anzio his landing craft was hit with a bomb. His ship exploded and he along with everyone on aboard were thrown into the sea. Dad only remembered beginning to swim and then losing consciousness. Later he woke up on the beach with a severe head wound. His unit had been separated by death and destruction, and yet his healing took place in a hospital, surrounded by other people. That is what God has for us today as well. He has a plan to revive and restore each one of us. No bombs that have separated us in this battle can destroy God’s plan. If we put our trust in Him, our wounds will heal and by His grace we can rejoice together again!
Sometimes we say that every cloud has a silver lining and in every trial there is a blessing. But the deeper truth is that our trials lead us desperate dependence on Him. Like the woman grasping for the hem of the robe of Jesus we feel forgotten and abandoned, but God has been with us through everything even when we didn’t know. Not every evil that we have suffered has been by God’s own choice. But in every suffering He has been with us. If we will trust Him all through the night He will lead us on to dawn!
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice Philippians 4:4
While Paul was writing from a Roman prison with guards chained to him on either side, my life’s problems pale in comparison. Yet Paul’s kind of rejoicing is a hard lesson for me to learn. Yes, things are not all that bad. We have moved into our comfortable small home in Florida but those we love especially the grandchildren we kissed good-bye just last week seem like a universe away. As we unpack and make phone calls to change our address with a thousand people we feel lost, lonely and joy, real load lifting and soul refreshing joy is something we long for.
But Jesus told us He was leaving us His joy – not a joy to be found anywhere on planet earth.
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, andthat your joy may be full. John 15:11
His joy kept Jesus through the wavering loyalties, betrayals and treacheries that pressed Him towards a harsh Roman cross. His joy caused Him to wash dirty feet and skip lunch in the sweltering heat by a well to meet a woman who was thirsty for a water only He could give. The joy of Jesus Christ rises up and says, “Enough!” to waves and wind. His joy sees the way along shadowy valley paths and lights a candle of hope waiting for us at the end of the day. Maybe that is why Paul tells us, “Rejoice!” then in face of the improbable backdrop of His life and our’s He tells us again, “Rejoice!” The world may not get it. Our weary bodies may not feel like it and The devil can not understand it. But we who are God’s children are given the priceless gift of His joy. We only have to remember and believe His joy is especially deep and true when it comes in a morning light that wipes away the tears of our darkest night!