1 Thessalonians 5:16 tells is to "rejoice always..."
I am suppose to be joyful all of the time? Even when I am upset? Even when something has gone terribly wrong? Even when my heart is broken? Even when I see a friend hurting? Even when I see some awful things happening in the world? I am still suppose to rejoice? Really?
The answer is clearly yes. It is spelled out to us that we must always be joyful.
I have discovered that whether or not I am joyful should not be dependent upon my circumstance. Just like how I love others should not be based upon their actions. Just because I am upset or angry or disappointed with someone does not mean that I love them any less.
I think a lot of times we don't understand what joy is. Joy is not about being happy in the moment. Joy is not about having fun or being satisfied because something went our way. Whenever we view joy in this way, it is something temporary, something that only lasts in the moment. In order to be joyful again, we must be fulfilled by another pursuit.
I think it makes sense then to say that a never ending joy is not something that can be achieved on our own terms, but something that we are blessed and given my the most holy and gracious God.
I was reading in Hebrews 12 earlier today because it is part of our camp curriculum for the summer. I came across this verse: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Enduring the cross doesn't seem to be a joyful situation, but the point is that it would bring a lasting joy.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul takes this concept and says something similar: "I am filled with comfort; In all our affliction, I am OVERFLOWING WITH JOY!"
Certainly Jesus did not find enduring the cross to be something fun.
Surely Paul didn't see his afflictions as something enjoyable.
However, there is great joy in living in the Light of Christ!
Sometimes things can be tough.
Sometimes things can be really hard and traumatic.
Sometimes things are painful.
But to know that you have a relationship with the Lord, to live a life that is pleasing to Him, to seek His will and His love is a reason for great joy!!
And to also know that even when things don't make sense--like how it didn't make sense for Jesus to have to die on the cross--that the Lord has something so much greater planned for our lives.
Those are reasons for overflowing with Joy.
Those are reasons for a never ending Joy.
Those are reasons to have a Joy that lasts.
Those are reasons to Rejoice always.
The joy that God gives us provides us with all the strength we will ever need!