Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. – Philippians 4:4
Happiness cannot be turned on like a tap. Joy does not come at the flip of a switch. As Christians, we have highs and lows like anyone else. Sometimes we feel great; other times we feel stuck. So what do we do with a command that tells us to be joyful continually—or, as the text has it, to “rejoice … always”?
Some people conceive of joy as something that ebbs and flows according to our circumstances. If this were so, the path to joy would be to ensure that our circumstances contain as many good things as possible and that we cut out anything, and anyone, that brings us down. But the apostle Paul offers us a different take. The Christian joy he describes is intended to be steady and stable. Paul clues us in to the source of this joy here: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” The key is the phrase in between “Rejoice” and “always”—“in the Lord.” Those three little words make all the difference in the world! If we let our joy ebb and flow with our circumstances, then we’re inevitably going to find ourselves in trouble. Hard times will come, sooner or later. But if we rejoice in the Lord, who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), then our joy is anchored in someone unchanging, and so it will be unfading.
Christian joy is a joy that can coexist with deep sadness. Your circumstances may bring you grief, but they need not extinguish your joy if you find it “in the Lord”—in who He is, how He loves you, and what He has promised you. Place your hope in Him and remind yourself of His unchanging nature and you will be on the path toward rejoicing always, even in hardship. Today, no matter your circumstances, you can find solace, rest, and, yes, even joy in the glorious truth that God is with you through it all and will one day set all things aright.