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When the shadows encroach

'Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!' Philippians 4. 4

I had a bad night last night. In the morning I drew strength from something written by Martin Luther, who suffered from depression (I don't suffer from depression). Writing to a fellow sufferer, he advised countering the darkness by vigorously praising God. That might seem odd and the last thing someone feeling low would be inclined to do. I can't help thinking Luther must have had in his mind the words of Paul to the Philippian church, quoted above.

Paul was writing to people who knew all about suffering and his words were not naive, nor insensitive because he understood their predicament. He makes the careful distinction that they should rejoice in their circumstances and not because of them. There was little to celebrate about their circumstances but God had proved his ability to transform even the bleakest situation, by rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt and from slavery to sin. He has proved his love for us all through the death of Jesus on the cross. And he has proved his commitment by sending the Holy Spirit to accompany us - always and everywhere.

Reasons to be cheerful don't come easily when we are down, which is why it can be helpful to call them to mind through praise. But even if our head tells us this is the right and effective thing to do it can be hard. Which is why I am glad it is Sunday. Joining with the Lord's people in church (even virtual church!) ushers us into the place of praise, carrying us along in a spontaneous celebration of the goodness of God, his power to save, his commitment to those who put their trust in him and his abiding presence.

Paul continues: 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.' Amen

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