“Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice!” [Clap! Clap!]
What a great time I had singing this little tune in 1980’s Children’s Church! It might’ve been a little easier to belt out Paul’s admonition from Philippians 4 when my biggest concerns in life were scraped knees or broken crayons. But when real life hits hard, this is not the song that pops up as a favorite, that’s for sure.
Sometimes, rejoicing in our circumstances feels counter intuitive. You might ask, Am I expected to power through pain with a big smile on my face proclaiming, “I’m too blessed to be stressed!”?
When the bottom falls out and our disappointments are deep, or our grief is sharp, how can we truly rejoice in the Lord?
The truth is a Christian always has reasons to rejoice with gratitude, whether our situation is merely crummy or blatantly tragic. Here are some reasons the Bible gives that should cause our hearts to be glad.
1. We are loved and paid for.
When Jesus lived a sinless life and died on the cross, he showed love more deeply than any human could give. “By this we know love, that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us,” (1 John 3:16). Not only are we redeemed by Christ’s work at Calvary, but we’ve been adopted into God’s family. “See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God! And so we are,” (1 John 3:1).
Maybe you are aware that the Psalms frequently tell of God’s unfailing love. But did you also know that many of these were written amidst trials? A common pattern found in these chapters is an expression of fear, mourning, betrayal, or regret, but they follow up with remembrance of the deeds God has done and praise to him in light of his love toward the writer. What a valuable pattern for us to follow when our own hearts are faint and aching. “But I have trusted in your steadfast love, my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has death bountifully with me,”(Psalm 13:4-6).
We can always rejoice because our souls have been saved.
2. We are never alone.
We see the relational character of God throughout Scripture. For example, even though the nation of Israel failed him over and over, he didn’t abandon them. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you,” (Isaiah 43:1-2). Just as a good parent wouldn’t dream of walking away from their children when they are most vulnerable and hurting, God promises to stay near to us.
When Jesus spoke of his Spirit dwelling within his children, he said, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you,” (John 14:18), and, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20). We can rejoice in knowing God’s Spirit is ever-present in us.
3. We grow through hardships.
Adversity has a way of stripping us of trivial things to reveal the foundation of our faith. Peter wrote to believers in the early church who were experiencing exile, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Scripture also tells us that God’s saving work is made very clear to us when our own strength is feeble. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” (1 Corinthians 12:9).
Perhaps you’ve experienced neediness and had to depend on God as your provider. Maybe you’ve longed for something that you couldn’t have and learned to see Christ as all-sufficient. It might be that unexpected events led you to learn about God’s sovereignty, or your grief brought you to know God as the Father of all comfort. We can rejoice knowing that our faith is cultivated through hardships.
4. We have a hopeful future.
Most of us have learned that we don’t always experience happy endings. Unlike inspirational sitcoms of the 90’s, there isn’t a guaranteed, heartfelt wrap-up to our biggest challenges. Sometimes, despite our most earnest prayers and faithful efforts, bad things happen. For the Christian, this doesn’t need to lead us to despair. Jesus said to his followers, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).
We at Clear Creek love to sing the song by Andrew Peterson, “Is He Worthy?” There is a line in the second verse that I find myself unable to sing without choking up in heartfelt relief: “Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does!” It reminds me of the vision that the apostle John wrote about in Revelation 21:3-4, which describes a future that every believer will experience.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”
Even the harshest earthly circumstances pale in comparison to the coming grandeur. We can rejoice because we know that we will share in the victorious eternal glory of Jesus Christ!
It’s not necessary to pretend that trials are fun. Even the most devout follower of Jesus wouldn’t choose to walk through suffering. Still, we know that even in our deepest valleys, our souls always have reasons to rejoice because God loves us, he is with us, he is working on us, and he has promised to make all things new!