Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! (NLT)
We are repeatedly told to rejoice always, which seems absurd given the state of the world and the occasional state of our own lives. Given the Bible is not absurd, what do we make of passages like this?
It all hinges on how we understand that word “rejoice”. It may conjure up images of cheery, smiling faces celebrating happy events. It may suggest optimistic temperaments. If so, we need to reset our thinking, otherwise we end up being unreal individuals who consider it our duty to be happy all the time.
Rejoicing is linked to joy. Unlike happiness, joy is not based on circumstances. Joy is based on the character of God. Happiness is an emotional reaction to favourable circumstances. Joy is a glad confidence in the goodness of God. That is why joy can be commanded and can be constant. Being happy all the time is inappropriate as well as impossible. There is too much sadness in life to be constantly happy.
But we can be joyful because as the prophet says, our God is our Saviour. Circumstances may be bleak, they may be against me. But my God is for me. We rejoice not because life is always good but because God is always good.