“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Life is far from easy. We can carefully plan things out, take precautions, save money and try to balance all the responsibilities life throws at us, but things just happen. We can lose a loved one, watch a hurricane wipe out an entire city, or be laid off from a job. Suffering surrounds us and there’s really no way of avoiding pain completely.
But, regardless of what is swirling around us, we can always make the choice to rejoice.
As Christians, God promises to provide care and blessings, but he does not promise to shield us from the possibility of being hurt. Instead, he tells us that he will stand with us through everything we encounter and we are never alone (Joshua 1:9). There is a purpose for our suffering, and he finds a way to bring everything together for his glory (Romans 8:28). Our suffering is always temporary. He tells us that when we accept his gift of salvation, we will rest in heaven with him for eternity (John 10:27-28).
That’s a lot to celebrate. We can rejoice in hope that God is taking care of us and there is more than our current pain or predicament. We can delight in the peace that he protects us and will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13
Our hurt and suffering as Christians is a bit different than the rest of the world. This is because we can find joy in what’s to come, regardless of any suffering that may be going on presently. He has already fought and won our battles for us. We rejoice in hope by trusting him and finding peace in his victory.
What Does it Mean to Rejoice?
There are plenty of reasons to celebrate God, but how, specifically, do you rejoice? When you think about the act of rejoicing, you probably imagine jumping for joy. But, from a biblical standpoint, what does it mean to rejoice? What does Paul mean in 1 Thessalonians when he says to “rejoice always?”
The term “rejoice” was commonly used among early Christians. It was a call to joy and often used as a salutation. Sometimes, Jesus would walk into a room and immediately call people to joy instead of using the standard “hello." Joy is more than just happiness. Jesus wasn’t calling people to dance and laugh or have fun. He was asking them to choose joy instead of hopelessness. Jesus encouraged his disciples to take heart and have peace because he had already overcome the world.
“For you will go out with joy. And be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” – Isaiah 55:12
Rejoicing does not always look like happiness. You can be hurting and still choose to delight in the Lord. You can choose to see the bigger picture and be grateful for what God has done, and is doing, with your life. Put simply, rejoicing is a choice. As Christians, we are called to joy, not to hopelessness and negativity. We should focus on what God has done for us instead of dwelling on our current suffering and pain. We are called to share that joy and hope with others.
What Happens When We Rejoice?
Just like every other command in the Bible, we benefit from rejoicing. People often think of God as a demanding being who makes our lives boring with rules and commands. In reality, his commands are always for our benefit.
Obeying God’s commands comes with huge benefits. Choosing to obey God brings you closer to his heart and his peace. Obedience is a true gift, but choosing to rejoice, in particular, comes with special benefits.
When you get bad news, it is very easy to slip into a negative mindset. For example, you lose your job. You can decide how you want to react to this development. You can choose the path of negativity, which comes with the belief that you will never recover and that your life is ruined. Or, you can choose the eternal perspective of hope and joy. In other words, you can choose to see that God has a purpose and that he will protect you. You can choose to believe that this suffering is temporary and that heaven is coming up next.
You may have lost your job, but maybe God has something bigger in store for you. Maybe God knew you needed time to rest and be with loved ones. God always has something better in mind – you just have to trust him and adopt the right mindset.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." – Colossians 3:1-2
Even if you don’t feel happy about something, tell God – out loud – that you trust him. Thank him for what he has done and what he is doing. Ask him for joy and an eternal perspective. Paul doesn’t just say to rejoice always, but to also pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. Just being in a conversation with God delivers so much peace and joy.
No matter what is happening, choose to rejoice. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances.
You’ll be amazed with how you feel.
Grand Canyon University is committed to following the Lord in all circumstances. If you would like to learn more about GCU’s Christian identity and mission or would like to read more devotionals, please visit our website and check out the GCU Blog. Learn more about the College of Theology and their degree options by checking out our website or requesting more information with the button on this page.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.