Philippians 4:4 instructs us to rejoice. It is a command to find joy each day in the Lord.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"
Did you catch Paul's command? Not only to rejoice but ALWAYS rejoice. "Always" you say? Yes...always.
Yet how can we find joy while dealing with the painful and challenging aspects of life?
Paul’s words to us make sense because we should rejoice in the Lord--God is good, all the time. Yet many times I don’t feel like rejoicing. When I am sad or hurting the last thing I want to do is put on a “happy face for Jesus.” Rejoicing does not take place when a loved one is taken from us. “Happiness” and the midst of sorrow are not compatible with one another. But is that really what we are called to do? Are we being told that we should always find happiness to be joyful? Is Paul saying that because we are believers in God that we should always be smiling because Jesus loves me?
Scripture is clear that we should rejoice regardless of the situation we find ourselves in (Psalm 118:24; 5:11; Romans 5:3-4) but let us not tether the word “rejoice” with either “happiness” or even being joyful. Happiness is a feeling and being joyful is a state of mind. Rejoice? That’s a command. Rejoicing is something we do, an internal place we go, and a hope we have.
We rejoice in the Lord despite our circumstances because rejoicing in God means that we take delight in him and not our circumstances. It means we are comforted by his name and his presence. It means that despite what I am going through, I know that I am loved, cared for, and watched over. Delighting in God means that, despite the chaos and storm in my life, my beloved Lord is my peace and comfort. Rejoicing in the Lord means that, while I cannot seem to get out of this storm, God is above it and outside of it. That he is not consumed by it and yet he is near to me and in the midst of it with me. Rejoicing in the Lord simply means putting JOY in his name, work, and being. Because rejoicing is in God, we thus can delight while in sorrow; we can declare that sorrow will not win. God does. We can rejoice and delight in God because his work upon the cross means that relationships will be restored and that cancer will not win.
To rejoice in the Lord means we can step outside of this moment, even if for a brief second, and drink in the ultimate glory of God. To rejoice means to worship, praise, and find strength in Him. It doesn’t mean that this moment isn’t tough, or that we should lie and act happy, nor is Paul commanding us to fake it. What it does mean is that we remember and take comfort and joy in knowing that there is more than this pain, more than this sorrow, more than this grief, more than this moment. There are honest feelings and places in our lives for grief, but we delight in the Lord during them because God’s work and name are greater. We aren’t rejoicing in the pain or the sorrow or the fact we are going through it. We are rejoicing in God alone and that does not require us to FEEL any different.
Rejoicing in the Lord is a peace, a calm, a praise, a comfort, and hope. When life is a pounding storm, being able to step outside the moment and rejoice in God is often times the only reprieve we have. This is not an “out-of-body experience” that draws us away from life’s events but it’s a joy we can cling to that enters into our lives and reminds us of the peace and joy to come. We rejoice because “rejoicing in the Lord” is about encompassing all of who God is. His life, his love, his death, his resurrection, and the promise of his return.
To “rejoice in the Lord” is a beautiful reminder that we find peace in God and that doesn’t demand us to act outside of the pain we are in. So yes. You and I need to rejoice in the Lord always because we always need to be comforted in his name and delight in his work.
Rev. Deb Koster