Rejoicing and Mourning

I have struggled with Philippians 4:4 many times. In this verse the apostle Paul says,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

~ The word, “always” in the above verse, I have always (!) taken quite literally and as result I assumed that I had to be supremely joyful at all times and on all occasions – 24/7.

So I would try to be joyful in many a situation and would simply fail. It wasn’t that I was depressed or sorrowful, but I just wasn’t bouncing up and down with joy. And funnily enough I would be reminded of this verse and then try to work up joy, and fail and then feel guilty and become sorrowful – sorrowful at the fact that I was not joyful!

Part of the problem came with seeing certain Christians who are constantly joyful ( ugh! = the ughbears), and being told that Christians are supposed to be the happiest people on the planet.  It also came from hearing enough people say during a Gospel presentation that if you turned away from your sins and accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you would have happiness and joy 24 hours a day nonstop.  While this sort of thing no doubt does happen, it has not been so in my case.

As I have been studying the Meaning of Life and Happiness of late, I have come to the conclusion that I have been mistaken in my understanding of this verse. Now I think that what Paul means in Philippians 4:4 is that we should be joyful in any and every occasion possible where it is appropriate to be so. Paul does not mean literally every situation.  For example, Paul also tells us in Romans 12:15,

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Here he is saying that there are certain situations where the appropriate response is that you mourn. You do not rejoice with those who mourn.

Likewise when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He was not rejoicing.

Question: So here is the thing though – if it is the case that becoming a Christian does not mean that you will have joy 24/7, and that you will also experience sorrow just like everyone else in the world, then what difference does it make whether you become a Christian or not?

Answer (*):

1) Joy Extended: A Christian not only has joy in the things of this world and in which everyone rejoices, but he or she also has joy in the spiritual things of God for which the world generally has no regard.  This has something to do with what Jonathan Edwards called “the sense of the heart”.  (Cannot explain that now, but I do love the phrase and had to use it).

2) Lasting unadulterated joy is the destiny of every Christian. While in this world joy may seem to come to us on an installment plan amidst many sorrows, a time will come when it will come along the broadest bandwidth possible and we will be flooded with it.

A time will come when there will be no more mourning as the old order of things will have passed away. When this time comes, joy will perfect, unshakeable, unbreakable, unadulterated, permanent, … and complete.

*Note – this is not a full answer for there are other reason why you should become a Christian such as the fact that we God commands us to turn away from our sins.