“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 surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Phil 4:4-7
I was on a jet bridge waiting to board a Southwest flight to when I got the text. Scrolling through Instagram, drinking a coffee, and this long message popped up on my screen. It was from my dad to our whole family and my heart sank as I read the words. The tests had come back, and it was cancer. The tears welled up, I tried to hold them back and breathe, as I found my way to my seat on the plane. I couldn’t talk. Mercifully, my husband was with me on that flight, and I was able to lay my head on his shoulder and let the tears just stream down my face. I was praying, asking God to keep fear at bay, but it was banging at the door of my heart. Those words, that diagnosis, are never what you want to hear. Is anyone ever ready for that kind of news? I was shocked and scared.
I’ll never forget talking to my parents after that sad flight. They explained that they felt like their job was to praise God through this journey. I remember my dad saying, “No matter what happens, we know the end of the story. Because of what Jesus did, there is healing ahead whether it’s on this side of glory or the next, and we are going to thank God for that hope as we walk through this together.”
A few weeks later they hosted a praise and worship night in their home. The room was full of friends and family, young and old, and I had the powerful privilege of watching my mom and dad run into the unknown and potentially very scary darkness ahead of them with their hands raised in the air, praising God. Following them felt irresistible, even though it struck me as unnatural in light of the circumstances, and that night, as we lifted our voices together, I encountered the peace and the presence of God in a way that will mark me for the rest of my life.
It didn’t make any sense. I walked into the room that night full of fear, worrying about my dad and my mom, and the journey we were all about to take together, and I encountered the peace of God in a way that I didn’t know was possible. “The peace of God which surpasses ALL understanding.”(Phil 4:7). He was drawing near to our breaking hearts, bringing comfort into our chaos and covering our deepest fears with His faithfulness. I distinctly remember my dad leaning his head back, a genuine smile spread across his face, and taking this deep, peace-filled breath, like a contented sigh you’d release after drinking a cold cup of water on a sweltering day. And I lifted my head to the sky and let out this surprised and delighted laugh that God was meeting us like this in the middle of such a scary and unstable place.
Here in the middle of the lonely night
Here in the middle of the losing fight
You’re here in the middle of the desert place
Here in the middle when I cannot see Your face
Here in the middle of the deep regret
Here when the healing has not happened yet
Here in the middle with Your outstretched arms
You can see my pain and it breaks Your heart
That command from scripture, to “Rejoice always” seems harsh at times, in the face of a cancer diagnosis, or depression, or a lost life, or a lost job, or a broken and trampled on heart. In the face of sickness or sadness or loneliness, it seems so unnatural, and almost cruel to ask people to “rejoice”, but the second half of the verse comes crashing into every terrible and unforeseen circumstance we might face,
“The Lord is near.”
God’s heart broke when He saw all that we would encounter as broken people in a broken world, so He sent His son to be broken for us, so that when we’re breaking, we’d know that we are not alone. We can rejoice because we have a rescuer who has already been to hell and back for us. We can rejoice because whatever we are facing, we can be certain that “the Lord is near”.
I wrote “Find You Here” a few days after this profound experience of God’s peace. We actually recorded the vocal for the song the day my dad went in for a major and very important surgery. He came out of the operating room, and I was there with a little MP3 on my iPhone, and he and mom and I wept at God’s kindness, to continue to draw near to us in a hospital room when we didn’t know how things would turn out. My prayer is that whoever you are and whatever you are facing, that you would be encouraged to lift your hands and “Rejoice!” And that as you rejoice, you’d be reminded of His faithfulness. Because, no matter what mess you are in the middle of, “the Lord is near”. His heart is breaking with yours, and His healing is coming for you as you lift your heart and your hands to rejoice in who He is and what He’s already done for you.
For those of you who are curious, my dad is currently cancer-free. We are so grateful, and yet, we know full well that this isn’t the end of every cancer story. Our hope is that as you listen to this song, you’d be reminded that God draws near to the broken-hearted and that you’d experience the gift of His nearness and kindness and compassion in the midst of every battle you’re facing. Many blessings on the journey as we rejoice in what our rescuer has already accomplished for us.
Find You Here - Philippians 4:4-7
Ellie Holcomb, Rusty Varenkamp, Benji Cowart
It’s not the news that any of us hoped that we would hear
It’s not the road we would have chosen, no
The only thing that we can see is darkness up ahead
But you’re asking us to lay our worry down and sing a song instead
And I didn’t know I’d find You here,
In the middle of my deepest fear
But You are drawing near
You are overwhelming me with peace
So I’ll lift my voice and sing
You’re gonna carry us through everything
And You are drawing near
You’re overwhelming all my fears with peace
You say that I should come to you with everything I need
You’re asking me to thank You even when the pain is deep
You promise that You’ll come and meet us on the road ahead
And no matter what the fear says, You give me a reason to be glad