Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice!
Philippians 4:4 AMP
Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].
1 Thessalonians 5:13 AMPC
For a while there, I think that I confused and conflated these two verses. Though we are to give thanks to God in everything – good, bad, and horrific – we are not called to rejoice over everything. We are called to rejoice in the Lord always, and that’s different.
Rejoice in the Lord Always, Not the Situation
About a month ago I was absolutely gutted like a fish. I had the privilege of meeting cold indifference with my open heart and man! It did not feel good. At all. But it was a privilege to suffer that pain. No cold heart ever warmed up through meeting an equally cold heart, so getting stabbed with an icicle is just part of belonging to Jesus. Nonetheless, it wasn’t an easy situation and I found myself asking, “How do I rejoice in this situation? The suffering? Okay, I can rejoice there. But the declining spiritual state of this person I love? I just can’t rejoice in that!”
The Holy Spirit showed me that I’d become turned around on the meaning of Philippians 4:4—to rejoice in the Lord always isn’t about the circumstances. It’s about my relationship with Him. No matter what my life looks like or what grief I’m in the midst of, God will always be worthy of my rejoicing.
Rejoice in the Lord Always: He’s Worth It
If giving thanks to God in all things is bowing to His sovereignty, then rejoicing in Him is a celebration of it. After the tears and heartache of my cold encounter, the Lord lifted my head to look at Him. And then I did rejoice! I stopped focusing on the grief I felt over this loved one’s sorry state and remembered who God is.
And He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”
Luke 18:27 KJV
What can’t God do? Who is beyond His reach? His Love is like nothing else in this universe. It woke me up when I was dead and melted my cold, hard heart. The grief I felt was real, because the circumstances were wretched. But that’s not where the story ends. I don’t have to know exactly what happens next or how the end looks, because I know the Author. It’s not the story I’m called to rejoice in, especially when I have no way of knowing if I’m in Chapter 3 or 43. I rejoice in the Lord always, the Author of my story and keeper of my heart. He alone is worthy to be praised and rejoiced over ALWAYS.