This morning I met three of my objectives for the day:

  1. Get out of bed before noon.

      2. Get dressed. And,

       3. Go to church.

Going to church was the biggest step. When I am in a depressive cycle, I want to be left alone. If I do go out, I want to blend in, not stand out. Some times I am able to pull this off, to mask my symptoms, to grin and bear it. This was not one of those times. Many people came up to me and asked how I was doing. The best response, if I don’t want to stand out, is to follow the script:

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks. And you?”


Many times I have been able to recite the anticipated response and the play goes on as directed. This morning, though, I couldn’t bring myself to pull it off.

“Good morning, Tony. How are you?”

{awkward pause, searching for response}

“Not bad, I guess?” or,

“I’ve been better?” or,

“It’s been a rough week?” or,

{fill in the blanks}

As I improvised my response with one woman at church, her response was pointed:

“Well, I hope you are here to rejoice. You know, like Scripture says, ‘Rejoice in the Lord, always.’”

In a sense, she spoke the truth. It is God’s desire that we rejoice in Him always. But what does rejoicing look like when we are sunk in a pit of despair? Do we just go through the motions of praise in spite of how we feel? To an extent, yes, but there is more to it than this. Rejoicing is bringing our whole selves, shouts of joy and tears of sorrow, before the Lord we know is listening. The Lord who cares. The Lord who loves us and is our companion in both the peaks and the valleys of our lives.

Authentic rejoicing is certainly delighting in the Lord who delights in us. At times, true rejoicing involves praying with sighs and groans too deep for words, trusting that, at just the right time, God will set us free from the snare of despair.

Rejoicing in the Lord doesn’t mean we have to be God’s cheerleaders. We can also be the assistant coach who encourages an injured player that she is still part of the team.

After my encounter with the woman at church, a Sunday school teacher came up to me. I apologized for missing class and he graciously responded, “You’ve been in my prayers a lot this week. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Rejoicing in the Lord leads us to have a gentle spirit we can share with others. In this way, through our words of encouragement and acts of kindness, they discover that the Lord is near.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again ‘Rejoice.’ Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4.4-5)