This is a tip I learned while traveling, which is good for Florida and for life.
My husband and I drove to Florida not once but twice within three weeks in December and early January. My husband’s sciatica made sitting in one spot unpleasant. Physical unpleasantness was not as bad as the emotional pain of losing his mother, whose funeral we were speeding toward on the last trip. Compounding both were standstill traffic jams in Virginia and farther south.
Is this a time for discouragement and mild grumbling, or is this a place for praising?
There are perennial debates about whether God expects us to have joy and to rejoice when we are under great suffering. Some say yes. Others say that’s ridiculous. Still others find an inventive solution in positing that as Christians we have joy in our hearts, by definition, even if we don’t feel it.
But in Realville, in the car on our trip to Florida, I happened to remember the couple I met in North Carolina at a WORLD event, Scott and Janet, who were also driving on a family outing and had their gas tank punctured by a piece of debris falling off an 18-wheeler just ahead of them. Six of their nine children were incinerated in the back seats of the vehicle. Scott and Janet, burned but not dead, witnessed the ball of flames from the shoulder of the road. And do you know what Scott said to Janet as the first of two ambulances separated them? He called over his shoulder, “Janet, Psalm 34.”
And do you know what Janet did? As the EMTs were tending to her, she was saying out loud, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth …” (Psalm 34).
That ends the perennial debate for me. What Scott and Janet did right there undercut all argument that says the Bible doesn’t mean what it says when it tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
That is to say, if somebody has done it—if somebody has been in the worse imaginable circumstances and has still taken the command to rejoice literally—then the bar is raised and it becomes impossible for us to say that the Bible doesn’t mean what it says. These people have robbed us of our self-justifications for disobedience and excuses.
And what a beautiful robbery it is! What a liberation! For I need to know that God’s Word is truth and that we can always put the Word of God above the word of man. The effect of this realization on me and my husband on our own travels through the Carolinas and through life was not depressing but strengthening.