Thanksgiving and Christmas are here, such exciting and precious times to celebrate family and the rich blessings of God. Greetings of “Happiness” and “Merriness” are at every turn. The words “joy” and “rejoice” are in the air now more than any other time of year. As a result I’ve been meditating at length on what it means to “rejoice,” particularly while walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
I think sometimes when we talk about rejoicing we mistakenly interpret it as gleeful exuberance, perhaps accompanied by visions of singing in the rain or dancing in the park. We may even mistakenly believe that if sorrow or grief are present that rejoicing can not or must not be. To believe so would rob us of one of the most poignant expressions of rejoicing, though. Saved and lost alike rejoice in the good times of life. Times of health, wealth and blessing are welcomed with giddy excitement and celebration appropriately called “rejoicing.” But there is a deeper “rejoicing” than this, a deeply resonating joy derived from hope in the midst of tribulation and tragedy (Romans 12:12). This rejoicing is not evidenced by the expression of festive celebratory “feelings,” but is instead characterized by the peace of confident Hope that rests squarely on God and His promises. This is the rejoicing of the redeemed that defies worldly logic as it exists even in the midst of piercing pain and streams of tears.
I am strongly convicted that there is a uniquely sweet and profound expression of rejoicing forged only in the hearts of those who walk in intimacy with Christ through fiery ordeals. Paul wrote, “Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16) yet he also wrote, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart” (Romans 9:1-2). In 2 Corinthians he describes the tremendous hardships and abuses he has endured and describes himself as “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). There is an incomparable rejoicing that is birthed through the marriage of steadfast faith and great sorrow. It is a rejoicing that is reverent, sober and soul-stirring. It is the rejoicing evidenced through praise flowing out of immeasurable heartbreak, as tear-streaked faces proclaim, “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).
Our risen Savior was described as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He Himself wept at the sting of death (John 11:35). He is our Great High Priest who empathizes with our weaknesses. He was tempted in all things as we are and He lives to intercede continually for us. He’s beckoning all, but particularly the broken-hearted, weary and heavy laden among us to confidently draw near to His throne of grace. He lovingly waits to lavishly dispense His grace and mercy to powerfully enable us to persevere, sorrowful yet always rejoicing. (Hebrews 4:15-16; 7:25)
“And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain– for He says, “AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION”– giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.” 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 [NASB]