“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
We are not created to be unhappy. Joylessness is counter to our beings, to the way we’re intended to function as people. There’s a reason that it seems like such hard work, and why it takes more muscles to frown than to smile—God made us that way. What’s more, it’s a vicious circle…to lack joy in our lives and joy in our approach to life simply means that we’re allowing joylessness to become our default option. Joylessness is a burden. It bends us, and if we allow ourselves to give in to it, it will do its best to break us. Under that burden, we find ourselves staggering down a slippery slope in a downward spiral, weariness and apathy leading to resentment and bitterness, because those who do experience joy in their lives seem almost to be mocking us.
Deciding to rejoice as your default option in your approach to life means hitting the reset button on your approach to everything. Joy isn’t a temporary thing, it’s a permanent condition, and if your joy fades then you’re not rejoicing right! Negativity is a transitory thing, because it’s not intended to last. It’s supposed to lead to a reaffirmation of purpose, and an awakening of the sense of possibility in your life. As Christians, when trials occur, we identify the problem and instead of bowing to the weight of joylessness we embrace the opportunity to lift ourselves higher despite the problem. We don’t toil under the burden of tribulations. We stand on top of them so that we can get a better view.
Scripture is bursting with exhortations to rejoice. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 simply says, “Rejoice always,” as part of a three part command to pray and give thanks, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” James 1:2 encourages the twelve tribes of Israel to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Psalm 100:1 instructs us to “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!”; Psalm 118: 24 announces that “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it”; Psalm 126:5 promises that “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” 1 Peter 4:13 tells us to “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” Nehemiah 8:10 commands us, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Zephaniah 3:17 simply states, “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Notice a pattern? These are not equivocations. These are statements, announcements, instructions, commands and promises. These are avowals with authority behind them, because we have authority from Christ over negativity. We have authority from Christ over passivity, and apathy, and resentment, and bitterness. We have authority from Christ over joylessness, and a mandate from Him to spread joy wherever we can, to exemplify His Spirit in our lives.
Joy is a delightfully contagious way to live. It spreads like wildfire, a smile begetting a smile. We’re not supposed to be controlled by our emotions, because we have been given authority to stand when the world wants us to fall. The biggest enemy we face isn’t the enemy, it’s passivity, and a meek acceptance of the majesty of God. It’s a gradual falling off of awe, a reluctant nod where a huge grin should be. The Good News becomes just okay news. Christianity becomes life enhancing instead of life changing. We stop being radicals, because we think it’s enough just to be “nice.” A cup of coffee in the morning is “nice.” It’s “nice” when we get nothing but green lights on the way to work. “Nice” people only finish last because they’re content not to be first, and when the Church becomes willing to settle for being “nice,” the Church becomes dull, predictable and monotonous. We need to live in wonder and astonishment at the Kingdom we’ve inherited, not be blasé about it.
Think about the things that stand in the way of you and a lifestyle of rejoicing. Do you have areas of your heart and your daily routine that lack joy, that you feel drag you down? This isn’t good for you. It’s not healthy, for your mind, your body or your spirit. We act in service of Christ, and as His representatives on earth, and we’re commanded to rejoice. As we live in joy, we become more like Him, and others can see, reflected in our smiles, the smile of Jesus. God is happy. He wants us to live in victory, because He paid for it with the blood of his Son.
We live in expectation of victory, with the confidence of those who have already won, a confidence born of an everlasting, astounding love, a confidence that engenders the kind of faith that is said to move mountains. While others buckle under the burden of their problems, we set them upon the ground, stand upon them and then pull our suffering friends up to stand with us, smiling all the while.