by Max Aplin
It may come as some surprise that in his letter to the Philippians Paul can be found telling his readers: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice (Phil 4:4). Is joy not simply a feeling within us that is either present or not as the case may be and that we are helpless to manufacture? How can we rejoice if we do not feel joyful?
In a sense these questions are understandable. To try to psyche ourselves up to feel joy is certainly far removed from the Christian faith, in which inner power and enabling must flow from God. Yet there must be some course of action we can take in order to actively rejoice, or Pauls words would be meaningless. Surely what he means is that we should consciously choose to reflect on and be glad about those things in our lives that please us. Even when we meet with difficulties, it is always the case that God is with us and that He has saved us. It is no coincidence that in this verse and also in 3:1 it is the Lord in whom we are told to rejoice. Furthermore, every day we can find a multitude of little things that we enjoy and about which we can be glad.
Rejoicing, then, is something that we can choose to do in obedience to Gods command. But why does He require it of us? Why is it so important that we are glad? The reason is surely in part simply that He loves us and wants to bless us. However, there is undoubtedly more to it than just that. Firstly, the more glad about something we are, the more likely we are to feel grateful towards God. Secondly, if we are dwelling on the positive aspects of our lives, the easier it will be to endure the negative parts. Thirdly, it is obvious that the more we are rejoicing, the less inclined we will be to indulge in feeling sorry for ourselves. Finally, concentrating on the good things that God has done for us may also help to create an outlook within us in which faith can prosper and unbelief and doubt are diminished. All these areas of life are important for our Christian walk, and if deliberate rejoicing acts as a fuel to strengthen them, then so much the better.
If, therefore, you are feeling down, make sure that you take the time and effort to actively rejoice in God. Remember, all empowering has to come from Him, so do not try to force your way to feelings of joy in your own strength. Instead, quietly focus on Gods love for you and grace towards you, as well as the other things in your life that you are pleased about. By doing this, you ought to find that the burden becomes that little bit lighter. If, on the contrary, you are in high spirits, it is nevertheless still important to specifically make the effort to rejoice in God, since the easiest times are often those in which we are in some ways more in danger of losing sight of Him. In short, regardless of our circumstances, we need to make the effort to be glad about all that God is to us and has done for us. So doing, we are bound to reap the rewards.