For some of us, joy doesn’t come easily. We are quick to worry, to empathize, to grieve. When others cry, we cry with them. We are the best mourners. And when trials come, joy seems to be the furthest thing from our reach.
So what do we do with a command like, “Rejoice always”? (I Thessalonians 5:16)
How can we rejoice when…
- a former accountant sets up camp in a Las Vegas hotel room and makes a name for himself as the “deadliest mass shooter in modern US history“?
- the babies we cradled in our arms are now staring at us from mug shots on the local news?
- 500,000 Rohingya tribespeople have become refugees, fleeing from widespread violence toward their people in Myanmar?
- the sin of family members has hurt us more deeply than we could have ever imagined?
How can we choose joy in the small daily trials when…
- the energy we’ve been given is never enough to make it through the day?
- our teething toddlers WON’T. STOP. WHINING.
- we find ourselves in situations we never would have chosen for ourselves?
- the boss berates and confuses us instead of leading by example?
- our toilet keeps overflowing.
Joy is not natural for most of us. We have to fight for joy.
So how can we do that? Matthew Henry (via the apostle Paul) gives us several ways we can fight for joy.
1) Fight for joy by focusing on Christ.
“This must be understood of spiritual joy,” says Henry, “for we must rejoice in our creature-comforts as if we rejoiced not, and must not expect to live many years…but, if we do rejoice in God, we may do that evermore. In him our joy will be full; and it is our fault if we have not a continual feast. If we are sorrowful upon any worldly account, yet still we may always rejoice…” I copied those bolded words in my journaling Bible. God provides us with all the joy we need when we look to Him as our source of joy. He’s not the one who pulls away. We are the ones who get distracted. It’s our fault if we don’t have a “continual feast” of sweet joy.In God our joy will be full; and it is our fault if we have not a continual feast.Click To Tweet
2) Fight for joy by praying.
If you continue reading in the passage in Thessalonians, you find the key to rejoicing. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (5:16-18)
Matthew Henry explains: “The way to rejoice evermore is to pray without ceasing. We [would] rejoice more if we prayed more. We should keep up stated times for prayer, and continue instant in prayer. We should pray always, and not faint: pray without weariness, and continue in prayer, till we come to that world where prayer shall be swallowed up in praise.”
When you are in the muck of sorrow and depression, prayer is often the last thing you want to do. It feels as though your prayers are attached to lead and fall to the ground from your lips. But prayer is effective, and persistence in prayer is sure to change OUR hearts, as we wait upon the Lord.We would rejoice more if we prayed more.Click To Tweet
3) Fight for joy by being thankful.
Verse 16 of the passage above reminds us to be thankful in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. Paul, the writer of Thessalonians, had endured unimaginable trials, and yet he said he had learned to be content in all of those things. Matthew Henry, sounding for an instant like my Minnesotan grandfather, comments, “It is never so bad with us but it might be worse.” John Calvin adds that, “…even in our afflictions we have large occasion of thanksgiving. For what is fitter or more suitable for pacifying us, than when we learn that God embraces us in Christ so tenderly, that he turns to our advantage and welfare everything that befalls us?”God embraces us in Christ so tenderly, that he turns to our advantage and welfare everything that befalls usClick To Tweet
Joy is a precious treasure, one that we have to seek.
We don’t just naturally float through life joyfully. Life tugs and tears at us, chips and dents us, and drags us through a lot of mud.
But joy is not out of our reach. We wouldn’t be commanded to be joyful if it were impossible for the Christian. We can do all things THROUGH Christ, who strengthens us in our weakness and inability. (See Philippians 4:13.)