Philippians 4:4-5, “’Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.’
You don’t have to be a football fan to remember the Seahawks’ tragic loss in Super Bowl XLIX. One can hardly imagine the horror that struck the Seattle sideline as their fate was sealed in the final seconds by an interception. In a moment, euphoric anticipation became dumbfounded sorrow.
No one could have possibly felt this loss more than Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson, the man whose pass landed in Patriot’s hands. However, in an interview months later, Wilson took a shocking stance. Describing the point just before the interception, he recalled a moment of divine intervention: “…on the third step God said to me, ‘I’m using you…I want to see how you respond. But most importantly I want them to see how you respond.’”
In chapter four, verse four of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, the apostle gives a seemingly cheerful command: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Upon closer inspection, however, we find that ominous word: always. Paul is charging us not only to rejoice in times of happiness, but also in times of great sorrow.
How is this possible? How is a Christian to rejoice in the midst of grief, loss, or just plain sadness? The answer lies in the difference between worldly and biblical rejoicing. The former describes an emotional response to a positive circumstance. We’re having a baby? Let’s rejoice! We got promoted? Let’s rejoice! Our car stopped breaking down? Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!
The latter goes deeper. Biblical rejoicing transcends circumstances and grants us the ability to find joy despite the situation in which we find ourselves. It is important to note that joy does not mean happiness. In seasons of loss, grief, and sorrow, there is absolutely a time for grieving and sadness. The wonder of biblical rejoicing is that even if tragedy strikes and the floor seems to be taken out from under us, we can still maintain a deeply-rooted joy knowing we have the firm foundation of Christ on which to land.
Our rejoicing should not just terminate on us. Paul’s instruction in verse five takes our actions and turns them outward. He lets us know to make our “reasonableness” (some translations use “gentleness”) known to all. Finding joy in Christ, who he is and what he has done for us, makes virtues like reasonableness or gentleness possible. Our contentment in Jesus should fuel our response to hardship, and that response serves as a testimony of God’s power to others. People are not moved closer to Christ through stories of challenge-less lives. They are drawn nearer through the transparent, unedited testimonies of others that highlight God’s faithfulness despite the ebbs and flows of life. We should not hope that our God will lower the tide of difficulty to make rejoicing easier. Instead we ought to pray that he would grow our trust to meet our trial, so that our rejoicing and our virtue can be a light to others.
In life, the opponent may catch our pass on the goal line and cause significant loss. But if we can find joy in knowing that the ball, the field, the players, and the stadium belong to the Lord, and that the ultimate victory is his, our story will be one that illuminates the soul of another. This is Joy that cannot be shaken. This is Joy with a purpose.
McKenna, H. (2015, July 7). Russell Wilson: God spoke to me after Super Bowl-losing
interception. In Boston.com. Retrieved from https://www.boston.com/sports/new-england-patriots/2015/07/07/russell-wilson-god-spoke-to-me-after-super-bowl-losing-interception