Are you feeling like nothing will ever be the same? Those of us who remember the shocking 9-11 terrorist attacks felt that way as the magnitude of the devastation sank in. We were right. America’s innocence was forever changed. Terrorism was no longer something that just happened in faraway places.
We all instinctively know that the pandemic and social upheaval of 2020 has also changed our world forever. We know that life will probably never return to what was considered normal before Covid-19.
Was “normal” so wonderful before 2020, though? Didn’t the world’s brokenness, and nagging difficulties, cloud our lives back then? Wouldn’t it be better to have something better than normal?
What would we call “better than normal”? Jesus called it JOY! Right before he went to the cross, He told his disciples, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). That is what we all need.
Let’s take a minute and look at the solid, unchanging, exciting truths the Lord has given to His followers that will give us great joy. Paul summarizes what is available to us in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice!”
Because the word “rejoice” is the verse twice, I think it distracted me from seeing two other important, life-changing instructions in that same verse.
First, notice that we are to rejoice “always”. In other words, an exciting joy actually exists that is unaffected by the disappointments and hardships we experience in the world we live in. I’ll share exactly what that joy is in a minute.
Before we get to that, notice that Jesus proved that joy can exist even amid intense suffering. Jesus suffered horrific torture, agonizing pain, public humiliation, and loneliness through His crucifixion. Despite that He still found joy. “… for the joy set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). In other words, Jesus had such a compelling future joy that it carried Him through a time of great pain.
Remember that Jesus made that same joy available to us. In John 15:11 (quoted earlier) He promised to give His disciples His own joy. Since Jesus was God in the flesh, we can look forward to the future joy that we will have with Him forever.
The second instruction buried in Philippians 4:4 is in the phrase: “in the Lord.” Those words are often used in the Bible. “Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones, and give thanks to His holy name” (Psalm 97:12). “Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18).
When I meditated on those words, I realized that I can always find joy if I know where to look. You can too if you have given your life to Jesus Christ. Sometimes people say, “I just don’t have anything to be happy about right now.” I understand that. I’ve felt that way, too, but as I studied God’s Word, I realized that it just isn’t true. I can have a limitless rejoicing when it is “in the Lord.”
Here are just a couple of examples of things that will give us joy.
When we belong to Jesus, we are completely and forever loved. His love for us is unaffected by, “…death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
That’s not all! Believers know that they have a close companion who will never leave them. God promises “… ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5–6).
Here’s another thing we can rejoice in: Jesus paid for our sin on the cross. He made it possible for us to “… be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4).
If you were not rejoicing “in the Lord” before the pandemic, you can begin to do that now. His joy can give you a life that is even better than normal. When you give your heart to Jesus, you no longer must find your joy in the things of this world.
This song can reflect the joy we have in our hearts.
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!