REJOICE ALWAYS DOES NOT MEAN BE HAPPY ALWAYS

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.

EMPTY PROMISES vs GOD’S PROMISES

God is the only One who always means what He says.

In Acts 27, Paul was traveling on a boat with a centurion and some prisoners when the weather became a threat to continuing on their course. When Paul saw this, he warned the centurion saying that if they continued it would result in a disaster and potentially cost them their lives. Paul’s warning was ignored and they found themselves in a raging storm and it says that “neither sun nor stars appeared for many days” (Acts 27:10). They began to throw cargo off the ship and all hope of survival was lost. When least expected, Paul stood up and offered something they didn’t have before:

A PROMISE.

Paul told everyone they would survive. He explained that an angel came to him and said, “Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar; God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (Acts 27:24).

How did Paul respond to the angel’s message? He simply said, “I believe God because he said it.” Period.

Wait…Think about this for a moment. Paul and these men were in a storm that was so intense they were literally on the verge of dying. The only natural response in this situation is complete panic. Yet Paul immediately believed what was told to him, his only reason being that God said it. 

Initially, it was hard to wrap my head around it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve suffered greatly from broken promises. How many times have people you trusted spoken things to you, made promises you held on to, only to rip them away like your heart is far less than the treasure it was created to be? And as a result, you too may not have see the sun nor stars for many days.

I believe that our ability to hold on to the word of God as a promise can be heavily tainted by all the times our trust has been violated by others. As humans, we naturally guard the areas of our heart that have experienced pain. The greater wound, the greater the protection. We experience an empty promise, maybe a few, and forget that there is One is who will NEVER take away his plan for us.

When something comes out of the mouth of God and into our life, it is our responsibility to make room for his words to grow roots in our spirit by believing and walking in obedience. He doesn’t take back what he said, he doesn’t change his mind. Notice that many verses in the bible end with “The Lord has spoken.” This may seem like a minor detail, but it is a powerful statement. I think so many verses end this way because it’s equivalent to placing a seal. Similar to when the Kings wrote a decree and would complete it with a seal so no one could change it. “The Lord has spoken” means it will come to pass.

What I think is the best part, is that he LOVES us too much to make an empty promise.

Everything he speaks to us- personally, through his Word, through others, comes out of his immeasurable love that no human on will ever match. When we experience heartbreak or disappointment from an empty promise, he is sad too. He feels disappointment with us.

Remember… he knows what all these things feel like. Jesus knew the deceit of a broken promise when Judas, his disciple sworn to loyalty, turned him over to a humiliating death with kiss. God knows what it was like to be abandoned by the Israelite people whom he deeply loved in old testament times again, and again, and again. God doesn’t give empty promises- he has been in our position far more times than we have!

Please friend, don’t limit the desire of your Father to bring to you what he has promised. He made a huge sacrifice so that you could always hold on to his promises- no matter how wounded you are, how much you’ve been let down, or how often you see others receiving their promises while you wait.

Ask your Father if there is anything you haven’t realized that could be standing in the way of you and your promise? Ask with a humble, open heart.

Ask him if there are any areas in which he has been trying to grow you, and you might be pushing back?

Ask him if there are steps of faith He’s waiting for you to take?

Perhaps none of these things are the case for you. Perhaps he wants you to trust, wait, and continue to walk in confidence.

Wherever you may find yourself, let his words seep into your spirit and make residence in the most callused areas of your heart.

God says he created you and what he creates is perfect. Your flaws don’t change that. He means it.

He says that when you’re weak, He’s ready to be strong. He means it.

When others walk away because you’re too much work or too much responsibility, he says he’s ready to fight for you. He means it.

He says that when you forget about Him, he pursues you. He means it.

He says that he will never move on to the next best thing or to someone who is easier to deal with than you are. He means it.

He says that when you fail and others give up, he will NEVER give up on you. He means it with all his heart.

He says that it would it would break his heart to lose you. He means it.

He says you are enough, you are worth it, and he will keep holding on. He means every single word he says.

When the Lord speaks into your life, friend, don’t resist it or doubt it. Don’t let someone else’s mistakes steal what God is excitedly desiring to give you. Hold on to what he speaks to you like it’s the most valuable and priceless treasure you will ever receive, because it is.

To God, your heart is not a joke.