Have you ever read a “how-to” or instruction manual to completion? They are often so long and boring that most of us don’t actually read them fully; we read just enough and skim the rest if needed.
Rejoicing or being joyful isn’t something we purchase or acquire, like a new kitchen appliance. Rather, it’s an ability we have been given by God. And yet most abilities aren’t accomplished automatically.
You may have a musical ability, but you still have to practice singing or playing the instrument. You may have an ability to dunk a basketball or shoot a three-point shot, but you still have to do it repeatedly to increase your consistency. Experience improves your level of success. Practice may not make perfect, but it does enhance performance.
As Christians, we have an ability to rejoice, but that doesn’t mean we succeed as often as we could or should.
Biblical Reasons and Occasions to Rejoice
- The Psalmists exhorted us to rejoice in the Lord (Psalm 5:11; 9:2; 32:11; 33:21; 35:9; 40:16; 64:10; 97:12) and in God’s salvation (Psalm 9:14; 13:5), in God’s strength (Psalm 21:1; ), in His love (Psalm 31:7), and in His promises (Psalm 119:162).
- The Apostle Paul told us to rejoice always (Phil. 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16), to rejoice when others rejoice and are honored (Romans 12:15; 1 Corinthians 12:26), to rejoice with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6), and to rejoice when Christ is preached (Philippians 1:18).
- Matthew and Luke instructed us to rejoice when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake (Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 6:22-23).
- Luke also encouraged us to rejoice because our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).
- Peter told us to rejoice if we participate in Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:13).
If you’ll notice, we are instructed in Scripture to rejoice in the bad times as well as in the good times. The reasons we can and should rejoice in the midst of hard times are simple:
1. God has a good purpose for everything He allows into our lives.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
Are you going through a breakup? God is working for your good. Did you lose your job? God may be testing your faith and trust in Him. Are you suffering from a loss of health? God is there.
You get the point. According to God’s Word, God doesn’t do random. He is sovereign over each and every circumstance of our lives!
2. Rejoicing during hard times is evidence of our trust in God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5).
Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? (Job 2:10).
The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him (Psalm 64:10).
I think the reason we struggle rejoicing in hard times is because we don’t actually trust God. We think He might fail us. Think about it, we equate hardship or bad experiences with incompetence and unreliability, and this is often warranted when it comes to fallible humans, but God is not human. He cannot fail.
If God allows us to go through hardship or trials, His meaning is love. He is certainly not incompetent or unreliable. This is precisely why we can rejoice while going through difficulties. God is in control. He is up to something good. He can be trusted.
Brown Bryan Edward, Keyes Aaron, and Mooring Jack Anthony wrote a song entitled “Sovereign Over Us.” The lyrics remind us of why we can rejoice in suffering,
Your plans are still to prosper; You have not forgotten us; You're with us in the fire and the flood
You're faithful forever; Perfect in love; You are sovereign over us
Even what the enemy means for evil; You turn it for our good; You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley, You are faithful; You're working for our good; You're working for our good and for Your glory.
Here are a few promises you can cling to help you rejoice:
1. God’s plans, including times of suffering, are to prosper you spiritually.
2. He has not forgotten you.
3. He is with you and He is faithful.
4. He is perfectly loving and sovereign.
5. He is working for our good and for His glory.
What Does This Mean?
God has given His children the ability to rejoice, but we must practice — daily — multiple times a day. Starting right now, try rejoicing in the Lord and in your circumstances, no matter what they are. Think of at least one reason you can praise God during this season of life (use the above list if needed).
Pray and tell God that you trust Him. Ask Him to increase your trust. And then challenge yourself to repeat the exercise over and over again.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/ipopba
Kristi Walker has been a missionary in Berlin, Germany for over 15 years working with an international church as the Director of Student Ministries. She is the author of two books - Disappointment: A Subtle Path Away from Christ and Convinced. Applying Biblical Principles to Life’s Choices.