With the start of school and the arrival of fall, life has returned to full speed in my house. Busyness puts me on edge and I get irritable. It seems like we are always running late, forgetting something, and the laundry is out of control. I got sick right as my husband was to leave town. And my back is giving me spasms but I have no time to go for an adjustment.
An introvert, I require peace and quiet to restore my senses–and sanity. Lately, it seems I need it more than ever. When I finally do get that time of quiet, I read these words, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
The passages in Scripture where we are told to do things continually have always made me stop and question, “How can that be?” The Bible calls us to pray without ceasing, forgive seventy times seven, give thanks in all things and to rejoice always. How do I rejoice always? Even when my kids won’t do what I tell them? Even when my dishwasher breaks? How about when the doctor orders more tests or when my car gets hit from behind–then too? What about when my friends reject me or my dreams get washed away?
SInce Paul was the one who penned those words in Philippians, perhaps I should ask him about the “always” part. But then I remember that Paul didn’t have life easy. He endured beatings, starvation, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and ultimately martyrdom. Yet, he practiced what he preached. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-4)
Interestingly, ‘rejoice’ is a verb, the action of living out joy. I usually think of joy as something that happens to me as the result of a good experience. God blesses my life in some way and it makes me happy or joyful. But, as it turns out, joy is something that you do, an intentional response to life. And this response doesn’t require a specific set of circumstances. Rather, we can rejoice no matter and even in spite of the circumstances.
This response to life’s hardships is quite the opposite of what our culture expects today. Happiness is defined as life going just the way we want it. Someone does something nice for us and it makes us happy. Happiness often has a contingency attached to it. Some might say, “I’ll be happy as soon as I get the job I want” or “I’ll be happy once I’m married” “If my kids would just sleep through the night, I’d be a happier person” (guilty as charged on this one) or “If I won the lottery, then I’d be happy.”
It was Christ who showed us the path of joy often takes us through trials and suffering. He said to His followers that day on the Mount (Matthew 5), “Blessed are those who mourn.” In this sermon, blessed can also be translated as ‘happy’. ”Happy are those who are poor in spirit” ”Happy are those who are persecuted.”
Joy is ours through Christ, no matter the circumstances. And, as our Lord pointed out, even because of the circumstances. The astounding paradox, intrinsic to the upside down kingdom, is this truth: happiness comes through suffering.
After all, isn’t our greatest happiness the direct result of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross? The cross, a sign and symbol of curse, became a symbol of hope and joy. Jesus also told His followers on the Mount, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-12) He didn’t say, ‘you will have joy once you get to heaven’, but He said to rejoice now, be glad now, even while you are persecuted.
We can rejoice now, knowing what lies ahead. The hope and promise of heaven keeps us moving forward with joy, despite the obstacles and trials we face along the way.
James said to “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) He gives us another reason to rejoice in the sufferings and hardships of life–so that we would grow in our faith and walk with Christ.
Peter said something similar in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Not only do our trials refine us, shape us to be more like Christ, but the result of that refinement is for the glory and honor of Christ. The spiritual transformation in our lives glorifies our Lord and Savior.
When Paul tells us to rejoice always, he says to rejoice in the Lord always. It’s because of Christ, through Christ, by Christ, and in Christ that we have joy. We can rejoice no matter the circumstances because we know that we have been saved for eternity. We know that trials are changing us for the better. And we know that it all brings glory to God.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7
Rejoicing in community (#1860-1873):
That it is possible to rejoice in all things
The way our sufferings are not wasted
The promise that suffering results in Christ-like growth
Surviving the week with my husband out of town
Not having to cook all week:)
The AMAZING discussions we are having in my ladies Bible study
Hope and peace
Celebrating birthdays with my mother-in-law
Having a party for the boys at the bowling alley
all the kids and even the grown ups having fun:)
Looking forward to going out of town next week for my sister’s wedding
A friend taking over my Bible study while I’m gone