Is it really possible to "always be joyful” like it’s written in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NCV)?
Life can seem like an endless list of things that have to be done day after day, bills that need to be paid, and a body that gets weaker as the years go on. On top of that, there are more serious situations that can come up from time to time – difficult situations that I haven’t chosen, but which I know God has planned.
It is so easy to wish for things to be different. “If I could just take some time off…” “If I could just make more money…” “If I could just be healthy…” “If I could just get a better job…” and so on and so on.
These things that I wish for are nice and maybe make me feel happy for a while when I manage to get them. But afterwards, I am back to my boring everyday life, unhappy and longing for those same things again. It almost seems like I can only be happy if I get the nice things that I want. But does my life really have to be this way?
Share in Christ’s sufferings
One of the best-known verses in the Bible is only three words long: “Always be joyful.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NCV). It’s written as a command, not as something I can decide to do when I want to. So I know that it must be possible to do it! God doesn’t give us commandments that are impossible to keep!
Be always joyful! That means right now, today, in this moment, in this situation, with the body I have, the job I have, the home I have, no matter what circumstances I find myself in. So then this type of joy doesn’t come because of any of these outward things. But then where does it come from?
One answer can be found in 1 Peter 4:13 (NCV), “But be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings…”
Peter talks about being happy because I can share in Christ’s sufferings. But how can suffering be joyful?
“Christ’s sufferings” were the inner sufferings that Christ experienced when He said No to His own will and chose to obey God instead. They were those sufferings He had to go through so that he did not sin. A life of overcoming sin is a really joyful life. No other joys can be compared to it! As a Christian, a follower of Jesus, I can also share in those sufferings, no matter what my earthly possessions or situations are, and the result is an overcoming life that fills me with joy!
Joy that comes from suffering
Maybe I feel that someone has treated me unfairly. My natural reaction is to do something to get them back for what they have done. The sin in my nature wants me to get angry and offended.
But then I can decide not to sin – not to get angry or offended. I can say a firm No to what my sinful desires want. And when they don’t get what they want, I experience this as an inner suffering. Then I am suffering in the same way that Christ suffered - I am sharing in the sufferings of Christ - I suffer so that I do not sin, and the result will be that I overcome – that gives me a deep joy!
This is a pure joy that I get in my spirit. This is the joy that isn’t dependent on my feelings, my situations, how others treat me, or anything else. This is the joy that makes it possible to be always joyful! Yes, it would be nice to have some time off right now, but if it doesn’t work out, that inner joy that I have doesn’t go away.
God knows what is best for me. I can simply do God’s will today, share in the sufferings of Christ and be filled with true joy, a joy that comes from overcoming sin! That’s why Jesus’ true disciples are the happiest people on earth.