In the course of a week last year, I learned my friend’s husband lost his job and my neighbor’s father died. Soon after, I heard of a couple who’s divorcing and a family friend’s business that wasn’t doing well. In the middle of all the bad news, I managed my breast-cancer diagnosis alongside the demands of life with four busy children. More recently, I can barely read the news without a lump in my throat and heaviness in my heart. My soul is weary.
Everywhere I turn, there’s a reason to be sad. It seems like the weight of this world has no end. And while I don’t want to ignore the pain I see, I also want to take seriously what Paul writes: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say rejoice” (Phil 4:4).
Everywhere I turn, there’s a reason to be sad.
Reading that verse, I instinctively balk. Really? I’m supposed to rejoice? Now? In this?
But then I remember Scripture offers sources of joy that don’t depend on my (or anyone else’s) circumstances. In fact, this “rejoice always” verse only makes sense in context outside of myself. It testifies to the truth that joy is possible—regardless of what’s happening in the world or how I’m feeling about it.
As Christians, we need a reliable source of refreshing joy—like water that never runs dry, no matter how dire the circumstance. Consider three places to find joy today.
Joy in His Presence
Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” And Psalm 21:6 says, “For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.”
Through prayer and Scripture, we experience the presence of God. Jeremiah 15:16 tells us, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Scripture teaches us who God is and reveals his character. In turn, we learn who we are and our need for him. Prayer allows us to talk with our creator and it’s through this personal relationship we can experience true joy.
Joy in Our Salvation
In Psalm 51, David acknowledges his sin then says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” And in Psalm 20:5, the psalmist writes, “May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!”
In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables about joy in salvation. He describes a shepherd finding his lost sheep (vv. 4–7), a woman calling her friends to “rejoice with me” when she finds her lost coin (vv. 8–10), and the joy when a rebellious son returns to his father’s house (vv. 11–32).
Earlier in the same book, Jesus sends out 72 laborers. They return to Jesus with joy, overwhelmed by the authority to cast out demons in Christ’s name. Jesus’s response is shocking; he acknowledges their power over the enemy, but he also points them to the main source of their joy: “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (10:20).
Jesus redirects their focus from the present circumstance to their salvation.
Jesus redirects our focus from the present circumstance to our salvation.
Joy in His Glory, Our Future Glory
Many of us have complicated emotions due to challenging here-and-now circumstances. Yet Scripture trains our minds and hearts to look toward eternity. 1 Peter 1:8 says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” And in Romans 8:17 we read, “and if [we are] children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
When we focus on Jesus, the One who suffered for us, we can experience unchanging joy and hope because of eternal glory to come.
Joy in the Lord does not negate our very real emotions. In fact, Scripture gives us a structure in which we can acknowledge heartache while still experiencing true joy. But if we are to be a people who read and live the words of the Bible, then joy in the Lord is commanded. Always.
If you don’t feel joyful, don’t despair. Instead, focus on lasting sources of true joy.