Rejoicing In God: Our Response to the Devastating Marshall Fires

by Maren Horjus


We find these familiar words in the letter to the Philippians. It’s an interesting command that the Apostle Paul believes bears repeating: Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.

Paul’s instruction is powerful enough on its own, but if we consider the person that wrote it (Paul), the circumstances in which it was penned (while he was imprisoned in Rome), and the people to whom he wrote it (the Philippians, who had witnessed his suffering), we have a gripping text worth examining today, as our Boulder community reels from yet another tragedy. In other words, where does the joy come from when our circumstances do not call for it?
While Paul and Silas were visiting Philippi and the people the former disciple would ultimately command to rejoice always, they were incarcerated and held in stocks in a maximum-security prison, which we learn about in Acts 16. And in Acts 16:25, Luke tells us, “And at about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”

Direct your pleas in prayer

First, of course, it is noteworthy that Paul and Silas were directing their songs and prayers to God. Maybe they were asking for deliverance or a change in their circumstances; we don’t know. We only know that they focused their words Godward, and that is important.
Second, Luke wants us to know that Paul and Silas were harmonizing. Silas wasn’t disparaging Paul for casting out the demon that ultimately landed them in prison. Paul wasn’t lamenting in silence, annoyed at Silas for singing. They were both praying and singing to God, together.
Third, we should note that the prisoners were listening. Paul and Silas were not explicitly evangelizing. They likely could not see any of the other prisoners, and so their songs weren’t performative. Rather, they were directing their praises to God, and Luke wants us to know that the prisoners heard them. People, many of them unsaved, are always listening to our private and corporate worship of God.

Prayer in the night

Finally, it is of the utmost importance that it was midnight. Paul and Silas were singing at midnight because they were awake, with their feet in stocks, in pain. Circumstantially, their rejoicing makes no sense. God had called them to this point of suffering—we do not know why—and they were praising Him, at midnight.
For our Boulder community, it is likewise midnight. We have suffered two years in a global pandemic and all that that entails—not the least of which are sickness, discriminating regulations, and church homelessness. We have suffered through a cultural upheaval related to racism. We have suffered through the deadliest shooting in county history. And now, we suffer through the most destructive fire in state history. On December 30, the Marshall Fires ripped through our county, decimating nearly a thousand homes, including some of our own.

Suffering together well

Much like with Paul and Silas, buried in the bowels of a Macedonian prison, God has called us to a point of suffering. Some of us feel this more acutely than others in homelessness and the very real loss of possessions and livelihoods. We all sympathize as we watch our neighbors, feeling their pain and battling our own stresses and anxieties.
But The Well is resilient, and our body is generous. To date, we’ve housed numerous displaced families and given thousands of dollars to aid those in need. We’ve grieved together. (It’s not the first time we’ve rallied in the face of tragedy, either.) Our adoration for God and what He’s doing has not withered.
And so, in this midnight, we will continue to praise our God and sing hymns to Him together, knowing that people are listening. As it stands, we are commanded to rejoice in the Lord always—and for good measure, “Again, I will say rejoice.”

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