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 such a beautiful verse.
I think, however, that sometimes Christians read bible verses similar to these and don’t look deeply enough into what it is actually saying.
We often equate the idea of rejoicing always with, “Don’t be sad.” As a result, we create an expectation in the body of Christ that you’re not allowed to feel suffering, that “rejoice” cancels out sadness. A completely unreasonable expectation. What this and so many other bible verses are saying is rejoice IN your suffering. Keep praising and being thankful in everything, including your sadness. We are called to keep rejoicing in the good moments and the bad ones because God is still good in all of them.
Over time, rejoicing helps to bring healing. The more you rejoice and walk in gratitude, the more light shines in your dark situation. It’s true that this is a choice we have to make. There’s a purpose in this verse in 1 Thessalonians, which is to glorify God in everything and therefore bring life to your circumstance. It isn’t demanding that you not be human.
It doesn’t mean you can’t allow your self to feel sadness because the bible says to rejoice. One isn’t supposed to entirely erase the other.
God created us. God created feelings. In the beginning, God didn’t create two robots in the garden.
God created man and woman- in his own image. Does God have feelings? Absolutely! The Old testament is filled with story after story reflecting God’s emotions towards specific individuals, his beloved Israelites, and humanity as a whole. As you read, you see God feeling sad time and time again.
Even better, the whole foundation of what we believe as followers of Christ is that he LOVED us so much he sacrificed his son so that we could be in constant, eternal communion with him.
That’s some serious love.
Isn’t love a feeling? Let alone one of the strongest feelings that can be experienced?
So if we are made in the image of God, and God clearly has an abundance of feelings, we are also created to feel. EVERY feeling. Not just happiness and gratitude. Not just hope and gladness.
You’re not letting God down when you find yourself experiencing sadness. In fact, that moment when you transparently acknowledge the way you feel may be the first time in a while in which you’re giving him the opportunity to fully embrace your heart and pour out a giant wave of healing on the pain that you’ve been denying.
I’m not implying that we allow our sadness to take priority over the hope offered to us through Jesus Christ. I’m talking about fully surrendering our hearts to the comfort of the Father, and without being honest about your pain, there is no complete surrender.
It says in Romans 12:12 to be, “joyful in hope, patient in affliction.” It doesn’t say you’re not allowed to feel the pain. Romans 5:3 tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, then the rest of the verse goes on to explain that statement, “…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.”
The more pain I’ve experienced in life, the more I realized that the moments I shut off the pain were missed opportunities 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 let me say, I am so thankful I don’t see him through the same lens I used to.
Only with Christ is it possible for sadness and rejoicing to fully coexist and intentionally work together.
So if you’re sad, be sad. There’s not point in anyone telling me or you to be happy when the obvious thing to feel is sadness.
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 have the freedom to rejoice in knowing we don’t have to carry the weight alone. We rejoice in that we have someone who steps in to fill the empty places. We don’t have to carry around a fake smile so that everyone knows we’re being a good Christian. We don’t have to pretend that our rejoicing cancels out our sorrows.
I rejoice in knowing I’m free to be sad, knowing that the love of Jesus will shine the most brightly in the darkness.