"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4)
Just a few weeks ago we watched as Texas was devastated by Hurricane Harvey, leaving families and individuals helpless, in need of rescue, and even fighting for their lives in some cases. A few weeks following, and just days ago, another Hurricane came wreaking havoc on Florida and the South East. These two storms are not the only ones we will see in this life. Adversity and hardship is a result of the fall of man, and as long as we live on this earth, we will see sin take its toll daily all over creation.
It’s extremely difficult to have joy in a world where death, suffering, and pain envelops our life, but God calls us as believers to take heart and to rejoice always in Him despite our circumstances. We can truly have joy when we rest in two things; the fact that He has overcome the world, and the hope of the inexpressible joy that is awaiting us in Heaven.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus tells His disciples this in John (16:33) to assure them that in the midst of the pain and suffering that was to come to them and His other followers, that they could have hope and peace in their hardships, because of what Christ has done. “Peace” in this sense has a much richer definition than our English language. It means, not just “peace” in the way of the absence of tribulation and unrest, but also the idea that “all is well” in one’s life because of God’s control in all circumstances, and that He has defeated death through His Son, Jesus.
David Mathis from “Desiring God” says, “Our joy will not be perfect in this life; we will always strain and struggle. We will have our angsts and anxieties. We will have our ups and downs. Yet even here we have tastes. Not only is indomitable joy coming, but even now we sample the sweetness, especially in suffering. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Peter 1:8).” Aside from the security and hope in knowing that as believers in Christ, we are His, and He has overcome death, we have the indescribable hope of what is awaiting us in Heaven.
Revelation 7:16-17 says, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’‘ And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” Can you imagine what that will be like? No pain, suffering, tears, or broken hearts. Our joy will be complete and perfect in His presence. Just as Mathis said, even now on this earth we can “sample the sweetness” of what’s to come, even in our suffering. Jonathan Edwards said, “The enjoyment of (God) is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends are but shadows, but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the ocean.”
Friends, this is not to take lightly. Joy is not optional, and as believers, we have been given the most precious gift we could ever receive; freedom to walk without shackles of sin because of Christ, and the priceless gift of eternal life + future perfect joy.
“Those of us who know ourselves, and are learning to be honest with reality, own up to how little we are truly joyful, and ask our Father again and again, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12).” -David Mathis (desiringGod.org)
Whatever “storm” we are walking through today, or future battle we will face tomorrow, let us be thankful for the joy that is present in our King, and may we rest in the fact that we are never without hope.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)