Rejoicing always in the Lord (see Philippians 4:4) may seem unrealistic at times. But we must remember that this rejoicing is centered not in a passing circumstance but in a constant reality—God Himself, and his Son, Jesus, who died for us and rose again.
On the one hand, we might suppose that Scripture doesn’t command us to rejoice in our nation’s condition, our culture’s trajectory, our spouse’s attitude, our child’s struggle, our church’s conflicts, our job loss, or our poor health. On the other hand, we’re told to “always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV). Likewise, Scripture tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).
I don’t think this means that we are to rejoice in evil, per se, since God hates evil (Zechariah 8:17; Proverbs 6:16-19) and commands us to hate it (Psalm 97:10; Proverbs 8:13; Romans 12:9). I do think it means that we should believe Romans 8:28, which tells us God will work all things together for our good, including evil things that happen to us.
Believing this frees us to thank God in the middle of difficult and even evil circumstances, knowing that in His sovereign grace, He is accomplishing great, eternal purposes in us through these things.
We’re told to rejoice in the Lord and to “consider it all joy” when we face hardship (James 1:2, NASB). Choosing to rejoice, by rehearsing reasons to be happy and grateful while suffering, affirms trust in God. We walk by faith, believing in what God has done, is doing, and will do to bring a good end to all that troubles us.
This response requires faith that God lovingly superintends our challenges. Viewing our sufferings as random or obsessing over someone else’s bad choices that caused our sufferings robs us of happiness. A weak, small, or faulty view of God always poisons the well of our contentment.
Who is this God we are to trust? What is He really like? We won’t trust Him until we know Him. Ours is a God with many attributes. If God were only sovereign, that wouldn’t be enough. His power alone can’t infuse us with happiness. His love is wonderful, but it, too, isn’t enough.
Think about it. We could have an all-powerful God who doesn’t love us. Or we could have a loving God who means well but doesn’t have the power to make good things happen.
Instead, Scripture teaches that we have a God who loves us and is sovereign over the universe, including all evil. Our God promises us that He will cause all things, even our suffering, to work together for our ultimate good (see Romans 8:28).
The more we grow in our understanding of God’s attributes, the happier we become.