Philippians 4.4 4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
Too often the Christian loses sight of this most important truth. We seem to find ourselves regularly in the slough of despair. I cannot always rejoice in the circumstances, but I can rejoice in the Lord.
The Bible is realistic and balanced. We must look at the totality of Scripture rather than taking a verse like this as if it were all that is written on the subject. The Psalms are helpful in this regard. The psalmist often is overwhelmed with despair or sadness, and he readily acknowledges his feelings of despair to God. He never puts on a happy face and denies the intensity of his troubles. But in the process of crying out to God for help and refocusing his thoughts on the Lord and His great mercies, by the end of the psalm his mood has changed, even though his circumstances are no different.
It’s interesting that the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is,“Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16). The shortest verse in the English New Testament is, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). They are not contradictory! Our Savior could weep and yet have the fullness of joy as He faced the cross (Heb. 12:1,2). Paul commands us to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15), and yet to rejoice always.
The Bible says that godly people are marked both by mourning (over sin, Matt. 5:4; James 4:9; 5:1) and yet by irrepressible joy. Philippians 4:4 is a commandment, repeated twice for emphasis, so that we will not shrug it off. It is a command that we must deliberately choose to obey, especially when we’re in difficult circumstances. It has to do with our attitude, which depends on our mental focus, which depends on our choice. The choice to rejoice often must go deliberately against how we feel.
When we go through trials, when we’re treated unfairly, when we’re disappointed by people or circumstances, we are faced with a decision: Will we obey this command to rejoice in the Lord or will we allow ourselves to be swept along by our feelings? Many Christians get depressed because they do not understand God’s purpose in trials or they do not mentally deal with their trials in the light of God’s Word. Often it can start with a simple disappointment–something you hoped would happen didn’t happen.
Someone you were counting on let you down? A situation you were hoping and praying for did not come about? If you don’t consciously yield your disappointment to the Lord and choose to thank Him by faith, trusting in His sovereign love, you can slip into depression. Satan often comes to you in a moment of disappointment and tempts you to doubt God’s loving care. Peter tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, casting our cares on Him, and to resist the devil, firm in our faith, in such times of trial (1 Pet. 5:5- 11).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed, “There are many people who never know the joy of the Lord because they have failed to see themselves as miserable sinners. The only way to be happy in Christ is to be desperately unhappy without Him”.