Joseph rejoiced when he saw Jacob in Egypt (Gen. 46:29) because the father and son had been apart from one another for decades. Yet as believers, we know that we can have joy even during tragedies like separation or death. Using Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Joy, we will now devote a few days of study to this Christian virtue.
It can be hard to comprehend the biblical concepts of joy and happiness because our culture has trivialized and sentimentalized these states of being. Society tells us real joy is impossible if we are not always happy with our relationships and possessions. The mantra, “don’t worry, be happy,” is often recited in a trite and frivilous manner.
However, this slogan has one important thing in common with Scripture’s teaching on joy: it expresses an imperative. That is to say, just as “don’t worry, be happy” orders us to be happy, so too does God’s Word command us to be joyful. Today’s passage is but one of many texts telling us to “rejoice in the Lord.”
Unfortunately, we tend to believe joy is something that happens to us, and so we often lack joy when things do not go our way. But joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) that will be manifest in all believers, and so we must strive to be joyful in our lives. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, and we are therefore able to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). We can decide to have joy.
Let us also be clear that Christian joy does not deny the legitimacy of grief. Jesus was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3); thus, it is not wrong to be sad. Sin creeps in when we are consistently despairing or hopeless. We are fearfully and wonderfully made - complex creatures who can be sad in one sense and joyful in another simultaneously. I grieve if my brother dies because I no longer have personal communion with him. But I can have a deep, abiding joy, for I know that death does not have the final word. It has been conquered in Christ’s death and resurrection (2 Tim. 1:10).
Christians find their joy in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). When we consider all the benefits and blessings Jesus has brought to us, we realize that we are joyful in Him and that we must strive to show forth this joy.
Even if God never gives us another blessing, what Jesus did on our behalf gives us more than a sufficient reason to rejoice. We can properly grieve when friends and families die, relationships end, jobs are lost, and suffering occurs. But such grief ought never to push us into despair, for in Jesus all will be set right, and one day all tragedy will be removed from creation (Rev. 21). If you are sad or depressed this day, consider the finished work of Christ and rejoice!