Making the choice to rejoice
Instruction from the Bible
Rejoicing is actually an instruction that we’re given very clearly in the Bible, but as with all commandments, we have to make the choice to obey. Writing from prison to the believers at Philippi, Paul instructs them to “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” (4:4). The peace of God determined Paul’s position, not a prison cell. Rejoicing is certainly not the easiest thing to do, but it is necessary for our faith.
Not always our first response
We don’t always rejoice as a first response to hard times, and yet this is what we are commanded to do. Habakkuk is a good example of contentment in uncertain circumstances. Seeing beyond the hard times his people were walking through and towards, the prophet said, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (3:18). Habakkuk’s contentment was possible despite his circumstances because his focus was in the right place. It would be impossible for him to rejoice if his focus had been on the fig tree, the vines, the failing fields, the flocks, and the empty stalls.
In the midst of it all, Habakkuk looked to the One who would help him through. “The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” (3:19). As Matthew Henry said, “And thus faith in Christ prepares for every event. The name of Jesus, when we can speak of Him as ours, is balm for every wound, a cordial for every care.” Rejoicing during hard times doesn’t mean we live in denial, or that we don’t acknowledge what’s going on around us. On the contrary, rejoicing requires us to admit our reality, and to recognize that we can’t deal with our problems on our own.
Even in the face of opposition, we can rejoice
Look at the apostles after they had been beaten and persecuted, and commanded to be quiet and no longer proclaim the name of Jesus. Did they shrink back and go home? No! Look at the first thing they did after being dismissed by their detractors. They rejoiced! “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Acts 5:41). They weren’t rejoicing in the persecution; they were rejoicing in the name of Jesus. Peter, who was present before the council, later wrote “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:13).
We don’t rejoice in persecution, but rather in the glory of the One who gives us peace in the face of it all. Rejoicing is possible when our focus is on the great Giver rather than the gift. When we recognize the source of our blessings, we can rejoice. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “… if you and I can keep near Jesus Christ always…He will take care that our keeping near Him will not want in its reward in that blessed continuity of felt repose which is very near the sunniness of gladness.”