My heart is heavy this morning, filled with sorrow over the attack in Southern Israel by members of the terrorist group Hamas. The sadness overwhelms me on the very day I had determined to write about rejoicing. Can I rejoice despite the news of such carnage?
The word “rejoice” was brought to my attention in day one of week three in a Bible study on the book of Philippians I have been working on with ladies in my church. Melissa Moore, who co-authors the study with her mother Beth, wrote, “Have you noticed how often we’ve seen the word ‘rejoice’ so far?”
**Paul rejoices when the gospel is preached, even when the messengers proclaim the news with false motives (Phil.1:18)
**Although Paul is in prison, he rejoices that his life is being poured out like a drink offering. Melissa writes that he “invites them also to rejoice with him, despite the suffering and opposition they all continue to face” (Phil. 2:17-18)
**Paul tells the Philippians rejoicing is the response he expects from them when Epaphroditus, the man they sent to take care of the apostle’s needs, returns to them. (Phil. 2:28)
The Greek verb for rejoice “most typically denotes a state of joy or gladness.”1
Which of these circumstances would prompt you to rejoice? If I were to order them, rejoicing would be easiest in the third exhortation Paul gives… the return of Epaphroditus. I might struggle to rejoice when men preach the gospel with false motives but knowing the joy of salvation, I see reason for rejoicing. Yet the second example, to rejoice while suffering, is the most difficult.
However, rejoicing can occur in all three examples because we are rejoicing in the Lord. (Phil. 3:1a “rejoice in the Lord.”)
What might I remember about the attributes of God to help me have an attitude of rejoicing while I mourn the plight of the Israelis?
First that He is merciful. I cannot imagine that He was not there with His chosen people at the time of the attack, carrying them through the tragedy, and that He is not present with the hostages.
Also, He is omnipotent, God Almighty, and He will accomplish His purposes. I do not know how this war will contribute to the eventual return of Christ, but I know one day Christ will return.
I know God is incomprehensible and our understanding of his ways are limited.
Most of all I can remember that God is Worthy and therefore worthy of my praise. I can join with the prophet Habakkuk stating:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
It is an act of faith, the Greek word pistis, which means “firm persuasion.” This faith is not blind but is “a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God.”2
Rejoicing in tough times reveals we believe God is who He declares himself to be and can do what he declares. And this is why Paul directs us to “Rejoice in the Lord always,” in Philippians 4:4a. Our reason for rejoicing is the Lord.
©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved
1-What does rejoicing in the Lord look like in your opinion?
2-How does rejoicing in the Lord change our perspective about circumstances?
1-The Surpassing Value of Knowing Christ, A Study of Philippians by Beth Moore and Melissa Moore. Published by Living Proof Ministries Houston, Texas.
2-The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words by Terry L. Miethe. Published by Bethany House Publishers Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo from Pixabay.