"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" Philippians 4:4
Do you have someone in your life that always seems so perky that it is annoying? Maybe it is that coworker that has already had way too much coffee when they get to work. Maybe it is a family member that is without doubt a "morning person" and thinks that everyone should sing in the shower. This kind of "happiness" just seems over the top. It grates on our nerves. Paul is telling us to rejoice, but is this what he means? Surely it couldn't be.
As a matter of fact this kind of rejoicing has nothing to do with "positive thinking" or "seeing the cup as half full". Many Christian authors almost sound like self-help gurus instead of Holy Spirit dependent people. They instruct people to manufacture something that is not there with the idea that what they construct will become their reality. This just isn't realistic though. We all face difficulties and trials. There are times in our life that the only way we could smile was if it was fake. We are literally living in hurt and anguish. So we turn to the Word of God for comfort and read that we are to rejoice always. How can we do that? Don't leave out a key phrase for this whole passage. We often get stuck on the word rejoice. Paul's admonition was not to rejoice in your circumstances. Your circumstances may be overwhelming and difficult. Paul's admonition was not to rejoice in your relationships with people. Relationships can be trying. Paul encouraged and instructed us to rejoice "in the Lord". That changes everything. Just a couple of verses earlier he had challenged two individuals that were at odds with one another to unify together. He understood that relationships were difficult, but we are not to rejoice in relationships. We are to rejoice in the Lord. Paul's circumstances during this time were horrible. Philippians is what we call a "prison epistle". Yes, he was writing these words from a damp, dark, rat infested dungeon. He was bound by his captors and not sure what the next day held for him. Yet, if you listen closely, you can hear these words echo off of the block walls of that cell: Rejoice in the Lord always. For emphasis he repeats the admonition: Again I will say, rejoice! Paul was not caught up in his circumstances. That was not the most important thing in his life. Paul was enraptured with the thought that his name was in the book of life. He was a child of God. There are no chains that can bind the heart that has been set free by Christ. There are no shackles that can be wrapped around the soul that has been delivered by the blood of Jesus. In the midst of our circumstances let us rejoice always in the Lord.