Joy in Sorrow

“Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice”(Phil. 4:4).

It‘s hard to be happy when you hurt. And there are alot of “hurts” in this world. Not just in terms of physical pain and suffering. the agony of a diseased body or mind, or the sorrow accompanying death; but the “hurts” of unemployment, of social injustice, of economic depression, of disappointment, loneliness and disaster. And on and on. Who of us has not experienced these kinds of “hurts” in various degrees of severity?

The apostle Paul knew the meaning of suffering. Listen to his list of “hurts” in II Corinthians 11:24–27: “Of the Jews five times received 1 forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” Fact is, when he penned the text quoted above, he was in prison. Yet he wrote: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”


We find it hard to receive this as a Word of God and not just a word of man. Is God saying to us through Paul that we are to look boldly into the face of all kinds of earthly experiences which seemingly contradict our ability to be happy, and rejoice? Even from that sickbed from which there is no hope or ever rising again? And from the valley of the shadow of death? And in the midst of our disappointments, and miseries, and heartaches, and moments of despair? Are all these swallowed up and included in this one admonition—rejoice? Always rejoice?

Does that sound like mockery in your ears? Aren‘t you and I inclined to contradict it, or to say that it must mean that we should not become rebellious or bitter? But—rejoice?

Indeed! For remember, Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord.” He is speaking not of a joy bound by the horizontal, but a joy absorbed by the vertical. The joy of which he speaks is not synonymous with hilarity and laughter, but a joy rooted deeply in the heart, a heart in which Christ lives. The one in whose heart Christ lives is called a new creature, and for him, old things have passed away and all things have become new. His joy is a new joy, a transcendent joy, not rooted in things or circumstances, but in the living Christ. And that makes all the difference in the world! For this joy transcends things and conditions in this life, is independent of them, and completely victorious over them.

Such a person can surely rejoice always, for consider the causes which produce his joy: his name is written in the book of life; he has forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ; he is declared righteous for Jesus’ sake; he is given the Holy Spirit who will lead him into all truth; he is the object of wonderful promises from a God who cannot lie; and he thus possesses a peace that passes all understanding.

That kind of joy no one can take from him, nor can any circumstances of life alter its effect. It‘s an everlasting and abiding joy, and this is what Paul refers to when he says: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

To find out just how correct Paul is, substitute some other phrase for “in the Lord,” and see how vain the exhortation then would be. Rejoice “in your money”? How futile! Either it is taken from you, or a disaster strikes and it is gone, or you die, and then where is your joy? Rejoice “in your name,” or “in your health,” or “in your position,” or “in your power”? Folly, isnt it? For these things are of the earth earthy, here today and gone tomorrow. But if you say and believe “Rejoice in the Lord,” you can safely add the word “always.” For all the pain and suffering and persecution put together in the world, not even death itself, can destroy the joy of that righteousness and truth and peace and life.

Does this mean that the Christian always walks with a smile on his face and a song on his lips? No, there will be times of weeping when there is sorrow, and groaning when there is pain and agony. The child of God does not look with absolute indifference upon this life, unmoved and untouched by its changing patterns and conditions. But beyond all these things affected by change and decay, there is a joy independent of things, a joy which rises above them, a joy which shall finally be consummated when we see the Father face to face in glory. That’s why we can “rejoice in the Lord always.”

Rejoice, the Lord is King; Your Lord and King adore; Rejoice, give thanks and sing, And triumph evermore. Lift up your heart, lift up your voice; Rejoice! Again I say, Rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope; Jesus, the Judge, shall come, And take His servants up To their eternal home. W e soon shall hear tharchangel‘s voice, The trump of God shall sound, Rejoice!