“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 ESV)
Humans are natural rejoicers. Not only do we love rejoicing but we do so all the more with others. And yet, there are many times we simply do not want to rejoice. Though the Bible tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always,” we find ourselves doing the exact opposite.
How are we supposed to rejoice when life gets rough?
The word rejoice means to “feel or show great delight.” Notice the text in Philippians doesn’t say “rejoice that this happened or that happened.” It plainly says rejoice in the Lord.
We know it’s hard to rejoice when life gets hectic. Medical bills pile high, marriages fall apart, and the income simply isn’t enough to keep up. How in the world are we supposed to rejoice?
We are to rejoice in the Lord always because he is always good. Come what may, the Lord doesn’t change. He is still good, still faithful, still loving. Though trials come, storms brew, and temptation persists, we know the Lord is still good—therefore we should rejoice!
Again, we’re not called to rejoice that we are going through these times. RC Sproul explains:
Importantly, Christian joy does not masochistically relish pain in and of itself. We are told to count suffering as joy because of the way the Holy Spirit uses it to mold us into Christ’s image, not to pretend that suffering is good when disconnected from the larger context of our sanctification — our growth in holiness (James 1:2–4).
No, we are called to rejoice in the Lord all the time because he is faithful. The object of our rejoicing is not our circumstances, but our God.
When God is the object of our rejoicing, nothing from life can bring us down. When times are good, we rejoice in the Lord. When times are bad, we rejoice in the Lord. In all times, we rejoice in the Lord!
This command is not optional for us. We are to take great delight in the Lord—always. Come rain or shine, we ought to be delighted in our Lord, for he is always good, always holy, always faithful to keep his promises.
The key comes down to this. Do we believe, as God’s children, that he wants the best for us? And do we understand that the best for us, sometimes, might include conflict or pain or hardship? Life is not good simply because it’s easy. Life is good because it’s given to us by God.
We rejoice in the Lord because we know, from the Bible, that he uses all things to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28). So we can rejoice when we become ill. We can rejoice when a pregnancy doesn’t go as planned. We can rejoice when we get laid off from work, have no money for rent, and everything is getting worse.
Because God is faithful. If we believe all that God gives is for our good, then we can rejoice in the Lord. Always.
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