“The angel of the Lord said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people!’” Luke 2:10 (Exclamation point added by me, but don’t you think if there’s a place to put one, it’s here.)
As we move on from Christmas and into the New Year, I’m pausing to reflect on the past and consider the future. Mostly because, as seems to be my habit, I get sick in December, and this year is no exception, so I’m writing this post through a fog of cold medicine and blurry eyes with a persistent runny nose.
But while I pause because I’m not feeling great, I hope you also pause to pray, meditate, and choose . . . a word. That’s right, one word that you will focus on in the next year. Not a list of new year’s resolutions, just a word. Author Beth Vogt gives this challenge every year, and this year, I’m giving it a go. Although I think I probably do this without knowing it every year. Last year, my word would have been hope or delight, and the year before perseverance. This year my word will be REJOICE.
With this in mind, being a research nerd and Bible geek, I began looking up verses, and immediately landed in Romans chapter five and knew that God had been preparing me for this word. In my Bible study group, two weeks in a row, I was asked to read these verses. The first week the words caught in my throat and brought tears to my eyes, but the next week I read it with gusto, and now, I think they will be my verses for the year. Here they are:
We Rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:2-5
Even as I type those verses, I see my other words and know that this is the place I want to dwell this year. However, just when I thought I discovered the perfect “rejoice” verse, I received my new Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible. Oh, yeah, so excited, I ripped off the plastic and danced to my writing spot. I just knew when I looked up “my verse,” there was going to be this beautiful, inspirational definition in Greek or Hebrew that would bless me with deep meaning. And I would then write the most insightful blog post ever written. It would go viral, and editors would be calling my agent begging to publish my novel. Wow! That would have been fantastic, but it was not to be.
As I read Romans Five in my study Bible, it didn’t even use the word Rejoice. I couldn’t believe it. It said Exalt, but then I remembered what Andi Lee, author of a Mary Like Me, wrote: if different translations use different words than it might mean something, so once again I pulled the cap off my highlighter and searched the cross-references. At this point, I remind you, I’m really not feeling well, so I needed to find something and fast.
And there it was. Halleluiah! (Can’t you hear the angels singing? Or is that the cold medicine?)
Rejoice is a synonym for exalt, but what is really exciting was all of the ways these words work together throughout the Bible. With the words on the page literally swirling, I found something that will keep me studying these words all year. But for now, hear this, rejoice and exult can mean leap for joy. I love that and that is what I want to do every morning, maybe not so much after a long day.
This year I want to learn to rejoice regardless of my circumstances, and although this may seem like a ridiculous goal if you’re not a believer, it is what having the Holy Spirit in you means. Friends, I hope and pray that this year we will rejoice together, and we can leap for joy because we are filled with Holy Spirit.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
May you grab hold of the peace God gives and rejoice.
What word will you focus on this year? Leave your comments below. I’d love to pray with you.