By NEMS Daily Journal
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3).
Society teaches by implication and by example that joy or happiness is only possible under favorable circumstances. Even so, at each stage of life, we find ourselves anticipating the next thing – graduation, a job, a better job, marriage, a house, children, a bigger house, getting the children raised and on their own, a peak career position, retirement, leisure and fun.
In a way, dissatisfaction seems as natural as breathing.
Yet Scripture tells us that even in less than ideal circumstances (to put it mildly), believers can have joy – indeed, that we are required to rejoice.
Faith, despite the expectations of some new believers, does not exempt one from troubles and sorrows.
Prophets, priests, patriarchs and peasants throughout the Old Testament, the New Testament and post-canonical history have faced every suffering known to man, from “mere” depression to agonizing execution.
Even so, the Apostle Paul treated joy as a commandment for believers: “Rejoice in the Lord always,” he wrote. “Again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
It’s not that Christians must simply have a happy-go-lucky attitude. Paul suffered greatly throughout his ministry – beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, jailings, public humiliation and the griefs of unruly churches, among others – yet again and again he urged his readers to embrace joy.
The Apostle James similarly urged believers to see troubles as a reason for rejoicing: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3).
Not that it is wrong to acknowledge troubles and their impact on our souls: The Old Testament, in what is commonly accepted as a prophecy about Jesus, declares, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief … . (Isaiah 53:3).
Despite such sorrows – especially the foreknowledge that he would die, under official condemnation and public contempt, in unspeakable anguish – Jesus was joyful.
He, as his disciples after him, taught that trials are occasions to rejoice.
Ken Myers writes on Ligonier.org, “To the best of our knowledge, Jesus never asked the disciples: ‘Are we having fun yet?’ But He did teach them that faithful servants would enter into the joy of their master. Happiness is the fruit of aligning our lives with God’s purposes for us.
“‘If you keep my commandments,’ Jesus promised, ‘you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full’ (John 15:10–11).”
Myers concludes, “The pursuit of such single-minded faithfulness, not simple-minded fun, is the true road to human happiness.”