Experiencing emotional happiness is easy when everything is going your way and you can enjoy doing the things that makes you happy. This requires no virtue. Rejoicing when your heart is breaking is quite another matter.
Some would be quick to argue that it is not humanly possible to rejoice and be happy in the midst of traumatic adversity or tragedy. Such an attitude, they would contend, would be totally unnatural. Granted, from the perspective of natural viewpoint, they are absolutely correct. However the true spiritual life has nothing to do with what is natural, but what is supernatural.
We are commanded (not an option) to “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3:1 “NIV”). The passage offers no exceptions based on circumstances or adversity.
Contrary to common belief, there are things that God cannot do. He cannot do anything contrary to His own nature and character. The character & justice of God cannot allow Him to require something if it were not possible for those being so commanded to comply.
One of the most liberating moments of the spiritual life is when a believer discovers that God never intended for him to go it alone or to try to accomplish anything spiritual via human means and abilities. The truth is that we cannot do so, even if we wanted to (John 15:5).
All “born again” (John 3:3 “NIV”) believers have God the Holy Spirit indwelling their bodies (1Cor.6: 19), but the same believer must choose to be filled (controlled) at any given time by submitting his circumstances (Phil. 4:6) to the control and glory of God.
Being a Christian does not divorce us from our emotions or having emotional responses.
Having spent 30 years in law enforcement, I have first hand knowledge of what it is like to go up to a strange door at all hours and make a death notification to the next of kin to people who were totally unprepared to hear the unexpected & devastating news. Our faces are forever etched in our mutual memories.
Grieving and/or the acceptance of “bad” news are not events, but processes.
Rejoicing in hardship that the Bible speaks of is not a denial of these processes. What this “rejoicing” is all about, is not necessarily the removal of the adversity or deliverance from difficult circumstances, but the availability of “the peace of God which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7 “NIV”) while grieving or enduring adversity. Having and applying such a spiritual asset is certainly a reason to rejoice!
Spiritual maturity & the filling of the Spirit enable us to quickly recover from the sudden impact of unexpected news and the ability to endure prolonged adversity. Once our emotions are under control, we can then recall and apply the appropriate doctrine(s) and turn the matter over to the Lord. This allows us to experience His “peace of God which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4: 7 “NIV”) and glorifies Him even in what the world would call the worst of circumstances.
Under such circumstances it is not uncommon for the comforters who go to the stricken believer offering him consolation only to find themselves to be ones who are spiritually touched and edified by “the mind of Christ” (1Cor.2: 16 “NIV”) being manifested in the life of such a believer.
It is because of and through this process that a Christian can “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3:1 “NIV”) regardless of circumstances or environment. In fact, there is not a single tragedy or other form of adversity that we cannot rejoice in when we acknowledge the sovereignty and hand God. Every event that takes place in our lives has a divine purpose even though we will not understand all of the “whys” this side of Heaven.
There will be many days of adversity, but there is no such thing as a “bad” day in the plan of God. As we develop the “mind of Christ” (1Cor. 2: 16 “NIV”) we will have God’s perspective on adversity & what the world calls tragedy.
The ability to glorify God by rejoicing when our hearts are breaking is truly the mark of a disciple who seeks and accepts His will, not our own (Matt.26: 39).
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (R) Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All Rights reserved.