This verse must not be the shortest verse in the Bible but it is short enough easy enough for us to understand the moment we read this. However, this verse is hiding a very long and big lesson for us.
The verse talks about rejoicing in the Lord and Paul even wrote it twice emphasizing it. Does it mean that we have to be happy and rejoice all the time? Does it mean that if we are Christians we are not allowed to be sad and depressed? Wrong! God does not want us to invalidate what we feel. He does not want us to deny what we feel or never feel sadness at all.
Rejoicing in the Lord always does not mean not feeling sadness and depression, but it is about having those feelings but still we are in fullness of joy. Even Jesus felt sad when Lazarus died, but He is still full of joy. When Paul also wrote this letter, note that he was in prison and waiting for the possibility of execution, but he is still full of joy.
Paul is not referring to the joy we feel when we achieved something or to the happiness we feel when we are not sad. He is referring to the spiritual joy that we will only find in God. Paul is referring to the spiritual joy that only God can give— the joy in the midst of tremendous pain. However, is it possible? Is it possible to feel joy in this troubled world? Is it possible to rejoice if we are depressed? Are we going to force ourselves to stop being depressed because it is what the Lord commanded?
Again, the joy Paul is referring to is not the joy we will feel when we are not sad and depressed. But it is the joy we will feel in the middle of this despair. It is possible to rejoice in the middle of troubles, Paul and Jesus are the proof of that. It is also the reason why Paul repeated the same phrase in the same verse to emphasize that it is very possible. Therefore, rejoicing in the Lord always does not mean denying what we feel and our troubles but it is abiding in the Lord with contentment and in full submission knowing that we are hurting but He is with us. Basically, rejoicing in the Lord always is being at peace not because there is an absence of war or sadness but because we are under God’s wings.
Second point is, rejoicing in the Lord is not only a matter of feelings but of obedience. In fullness of joy is not a matter of feelings and that we choose to rejoice amidst despair but it is of obedience. Again, it is not primarily an emotional state but it is a spiritual matter of obedience. We can fully rejoice in the Lord if we obey Him.
It will never be a fullness of joy if one part of us is contradicting the other parts. If our mind is of joy, our spirit is of joy but our body is continuing to sin and delights in sin, then we will not be able to feel the fullness of joy that God can give us. Rejoicing in Him means that we have to submit everything in Him and obey Him because through this we will find contentment in our situation and see our situation in the lens of the Bible.
Just as Paul declares that he is rejoicing with the Lord despite that he was in prison as he wrote this letter, it is because he is contented and that he is obedient to God. As you can notice, the succeeding verses of this talks about the peace that transcends all understanding because indeed, as you obey, you will be able to rejoice in the Lord despite your situation and then you will find that peace that passes all understanding.
Third point is, rejoicing in the Lord means a constant and unending grace. It is not only because we are happy, or that we have obeyed Him but also it is also celebrating our salvation that was bought by the blood of Jesus. As we rejoice in Him, obeying Him and remaining joyful despite our despair, we must also equate rejoicing in Him as celebrating everyday the victory of Jesus over death and sin.
As Christians who are saved and bought at a price, we are to rejoice in the grace of God. We must always rejoice and be joyful to the grace that God has given to us even if we are very sinful. Rejoicing means celebrating our transition from darkness to the light of God’s mercy and grace. Again, rejoicing is not merely a happy feeling but it is a spiritual recognition of God’s goodness in our lives.
So, may we always remember to rejoice in the Lord despite all our hardships, despair and sadness. May we attain the fullness of joy by obeying Him through making the Word of God as our compass who can teach our ways and may we rejoice in Him solely because of His grace we are saved through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I say it again, rejoice!
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