I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
By Meron Asnake (WITHIN Devotional Writer)
“Pay attention to the ways you’re responding to trauma. Pretending nothing happened, minimizing it, numbing out, distracting yourself, being glued to social media or television are ways some people cope. Be mindful of your wellness.” said Dr. Thema in her latest social media post.
The pandemic, like the rest of the world, took me in a whirlwind of emotions. In addition, we, black and brown communities, are experiencing broadcasted and non-stop racial injustice in America. Our traumas are prolonged and rerun in our social media feeds and numerous news sites. Thus, I felt as if I numbed my way through most of the quarantine. I overworked, binged watched shows, and ate a lot. As a result, I have 15 extra pounds that I fight and shimmy into, what used to be my loose-fitting jeans. I believe I am one wrong move away from splitting in it half; the struggle cannot be more real. I believe 2020 is the year I spent less time praying and/or reading the word of God. As Dr. Thema said and quoted above, I am one of those people, who tried to escape my reality and not deal with the core problem. Hence, I failed to exercise mindfulness, which I like to parallel as our devotion (or worship).
2020 is also the year that revealed my true devotion and lack thereof. I was upset at the sovereign Lord that allowed this chaos to happen; I felt hopelessness for our communities and questioned if true change was coming. I wondered if there will be a cure for COVID and disliked our new normal. In short, I found more excuses to grumble and less reasons to be thankful as the days passed; as a result, my joy was misplaced. However, I am here to testify of the Lord’s keeping power and his unmatched grace. Because in the few times I surrendered to cast my cares onto him and be still, He encouraged and challenged me with his word in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18. “Rejoice Always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstance for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
How on earth does one do that in a pandemic? To be honest, I could not have told you in 2020. I get the praying part but rejoicing and giving thanks were not in my to-do list. In hindsight of last year, there was, and still is so much the Lord was communicating that I overlooked by the cares of this world. For today’s devotion, let us focus on Verse 16: Rejoice always. Reread it a couple of more times. Is that a command? In whom are we rejoicing? Does it pertain to me? Is it applicable for this season? Does it really mean to rejoice, ALWAYS? I am sure you have so many questions of your own, which I encourage you to ask the Lord and get answers in His Word.
The deliberate use of the word, rejoice, challenges us to dig deeper into of the scriptures. It is communicating a command and requires active participation of the hearer. It is calling us to be glad, to glory, to exult, to gladden, to cheer, and to delight in the LORD in all circumstances (Blue Letter Bible Commentaries). Philippians 4:4 reminds us to “rejoice in the Lord Always; I will say it again: Rejoice!” Our tendencies by default are to focus on ourselves and our need to have a trouble-free life. In that fantasy world, we assume the presence of our joy, where our devotions and praises to God will not waver. Tim Keller, quoting Elizabeth Elliot, said “Joy is not absence of trouble, it is the presence of God.” There is a call for us NOT to meditate on our circumstances, but in God and His word. It is important to remember that the sovereign God did not only allow the “chaos”, but He is in control of it, especially the the pandemic and act of domestic terrorism. In finding our joy in the Lord, we discover our strength and shield (Psalm 28:7).
So, I will ask, where is your devotion?
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The weekly devotionals seek to encourage you to dig deeper into Scripture as you take the time to daily read, meditate, and internalize the verses in the devotional, along with the passages provided below to give greater context. Take the time to read them throughout the week (repetition is important) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp what God is showing you about Himself, about you, and how to live in light of these truths.
Passages to read/memorize/meditate:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Questions to Reflect on: