One of my very favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. It’s a beautiful verse, yet I think we sometimes read verses like these and don’t look deeply enough into what it’s truly saying. We equate the idea of rejoicing always with “never being sad.”
As a result, we create an expectation in the body of Christ that you’re not allowed to feel pain, that “rejoice” cancels out sadness. A completely unreasonable expectation.
This verse is reminding us to rejoice IN our suffering. To keep praising and being thankful in everything, including our sadness. We are called to keep rejoicing in the good moments and the bad ones because God is still good in all of them.
Rejoicing is extremely important- it helps bring healing and preserves a posture of gratitude. The more you rejoice, the more light shines in your dark situation. This glorifies God in everything and therefore brings life to every circumstance.
But it doesn’t demand that you not be human. It doesn’t mean your pain isn’t acceptable. One feeling isn’t supposed to entirely cancel out the other. Especially if you find yourself in the process of healing from a situation that has brought you pain.
In the beginning, God didn’t create two robots in the garden. God created man and woman- in his own image. He created us. He created feelings. If we are made in his own image, doesn’t God have an abundance of feelings? The Old testament is filled with story after story illustrating God’s emotions towards his people. In fact, even in the midst of his passionate love for us, we see Him expressing sadness time and time again as his children overlooked his love.
Romans 12:12 tells us to be, “joyful in hope, patient in affliction.” It doesn’t say “ignore the affliction”, or “be hard on yourself in the affliction”. Paul understood that healing from affliction is a process that requires patience and dependence on the greatest Healer. He understood that affliction is inevitable. He understood the beautiful truth that only with Christ is it possible for sadness and rejoicing to coexist and intentionally work together.
Romans 5:3 tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, and the rest of the verse explains why: “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
You’re not letting God down when you find yourself experiencing sadness. That moment when you acknowledge your feelings and surrender your heart to the comfort of the Father may be the first time you’ve given him the opportunity to fully embrace your heart and pour out a wave of healing on the pain you’ve been denying.
The more pain I’ve experienced in life, the more I’ve realized that each moment I shut off the pain was a missed opportunity to see God’s goodness. His presence in the hurting, his quickness to send an outpouring of love from all directions, the beautifully creative ways he showed me his heart’s response to my pain, all were things that marked me forever. Without allowing him to step into the places I had no idea how to mend, I would have never known him the way I do today. And I must say, I am so thankful I don’t see him through the same lens I used to.
So if you’re hurt, then hurt. If you’ve got pain, don’t ignore it. Yet also rejoice. Rejoice in the weakness that gives our Father a wide open space to be strong on our behalf.
Embedded within the pain, we can rejoice in knowing we don’t have to carry the weight alone.
We rejoice in our healing, knowing that the love of Jesus will shine the most brightly in the darkness.