I AM writing this as we drive back from a three-week holiday in Queensland to visit my extended family.
Overall the trip hasn’t quite been what we imagined it would be.
The Sunshine State has lived up to its name and we have enjoyed some great ‘touristy’ outings.
But we’ve also had to navigate family gatherings and deal with family dynamics.
And along with a case of strep throat and a strained shoulder, three of our four boys came down with gastro, which ended up with two nocturnal visits from the doctor.
In one sense we’re heading home as tired as we were when we set off, and so you might be tempted to ask, why bother?
So often we let external events and circumstances determine how we feel. In some ways that’s natural.
When the sun is shining, when good things come our way, when everyone is getting along we feel happy, as we should.
When skies are grey, when those we love are unwell, when life is harder than we expect, we naturally feel sad.
How can we feel any differently? Is it possible to experience emotions other than what our external environment encourages?
The Bible contains a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi.
This short letter is positively overflowing with joy.
Not only is Paul full of joy, more than once he calls others to join him in rejoicing.
All of this joy is surprising when we recognise that Paul’s situation would more naturally lend itself to despair rather than joy.
Paul isn’t writing from the comfort of his study, or sending them a postcard while he’s on holidays.
He is writing from prison, where he is chained to Roman guards, awaiting trial and facing the very real possibility of his death.
How is it that Paul can be so positive?
It isn’t because he’s hopelessly naïve or foolishly has faith that it will all work out in the end.
Paul is quite realistic about what might happen.
No, Paul shows us it is possible to feel something that is completely at odds with the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Paul’s joy doesn’t come from looking deep within, from some mystical inner spring of solace.
Instead, Paul looks way beyond himself and his present circumstances.
Paul’s joy comes from the Lord, in what Jesus has done for us and in God’s promises for the future.
If we do the same thing we too can know joy and peace that passes understanding.
Putting our faith in God means we’re pinning our hopes on one who is bigger than any situation we might find ourselves in.
As we head home we’re rejoicing, not because we’ll soon be sleeping in our own beds, but because through all of our journey we’ve been basking in God’s blessings.
As the school holidays come to an end and as we come into the final stretch for the year I pray that you too might join in rejoicing in Jesus.
Christ Church Anglican