by Christina Fox
It was a busy day as usual around my house. We had home school followed by the boy’s after school activities, a few errands, and then sports. By the time evening came, everyone was tired. Or so I thought.
After putting the boys to bed I had to return to their room multiple times to tell them to be quiet, leave each other alone, stop making weird sounds, and no name calling. As the evening continued, I had to remove one child from the room to lay on the couch until the other fell asleep. The night wore on as I tried to get them both to sleep. Apparently, neither of them got the memo that mommy was tired and wanted to go to sleep early.
Lately, it seems as though nothing is going my way. I am always running late, forgetting something, and the laundry seems to quadruple every day. My husband is busier than ever with work, things keep breaking around the house, and I think I might be getting sick but I have no time to go to the doctor.
The only way for me to find peace is when I seek stillness and quiet in the Word. Opening my Bible, I read these words, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4) Rejoice? Really?
The passages in Scripture where we are told to do things continually have always made me stop and think, “Is that really true? How is that possible?” The Bible calls us to pray without ceasing, forgive seventy times seven, give thanks in all things and to rejoice always. But just how do I rejoice always? Even when my kids won’t do what I tell them? Even when my dishwasher breaks? How about when the doctor orders more tests or when my car gets hit from behind– then, too? What about when my friends reject me or my dreams for the future die like the plants I always forget to water?
Since Paul was the one who penned those words in Philippians, I remember that Paul didn’t have life easy. He endured beatings, starvation, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and ultimately martyrdom. Despite his suffering, he still rejoiced. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Rom. 5:3-4)
In my quest to understand what it means to “rejoice always,” I’ve learned that rejoice is a verb, the action of living out joy. I usually think of joy as something that happens to me as the result of a good experience. God blesses my life in some way and it makes me happy or joyful. But, as it turns out, rejoicing is something that you do, an intentional response to God… even in the messes of life.
This response to life is quite the opposite of what our hearts are inclined to believe. We tend to think that happiness happens when life goes the way we want it. “I’ll be happy as soon as I get the job I want,” or “I’ll be happy once we move to our dream house.” “If my kids would just sleep through the night, I’d be a happier person,” or “If my husband helped out more around the house, I wouldn’t be so irritable.”
It was Christ who showed us the path of joy often takes us through trials and suffering. He said to his followers in Matthew 5, “Blessed are those who mourn.” In this sermon, blessed can also be translated as “happy.” “Happy are those who are poor in spirit;” “Happy are those who are persecuted.” Joy is ours through Christ no matter the circumstances, because his sovereign grace is the overarching reality in which we live.
After all, isn’t our greatest happiness the direct result of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross? The cross, a sign and symbol of curse has become to us a symbol of hope and joy because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus walked into the suffering because of the joy that awaited–namely the restoration of his people to the Father. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
When Paul tells us to rejoice always, he says to rejoice in the Lord always. It’s because of Christ, through Christ, by Christ, and in Christ that we have joy. When it comes to my own messes and challenges of life, I have learned that it is possible for me to intentionally live out joy. I can rejoice despite lack of sleep and when my car won’t start and even when nothing is going my way–simply because of the promise and hope I have in Christ my Savior.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Christina Fox is a homeschooling mom, licensed mental health counselor, writer, and coffee drinker, not necessarily in that order. She lives in sunny South Florida with her husband of sixteen years and their two sons. Christina blogs at To Show Them Jesus.