Read Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say,Rejoice. (NRSV)
If this text is read in a certain way it makes no sense at all and reduces our faith to a matter of putting on a happy face no matter what happens. But Christianity is nothing if not realistic. Paul writes these words from prison and knows very well the reality of pain and suffering. So why does he urge us to rejoice always?
Because we always can be confident of the love God has for us and his care for us. It might not be evident,things might be against us,but faith in the love of God is not to be dependent on immediate circumstances. Happiness is dependent on such circumstances,but joy is not. Joy is a glad confidence in the goodness of God,which doesn’t change and which lies above and beyond all our changing circumstances.
We might be tempted to think rejoicing in God will start happening when the sickness is healed,when the children get their lives together,when the job opens up or when the relationship is restored. But this is to make rejoicing dependent on our life situation. To postpone rejoicing is to misunderstand what it is.
We can rejoice whilst being sad,we can rejoice whilst weeping,we can rejoice even if there seems no light in our life at all. Not because we engage in pious denial,but because God remains God despite it all. We rejoice not because life is always good but because God is always good.