What does it mean to have joy in all circumstances?

By McKenzie May

As lovers of the light, to define joy as something as simple as a higher magnitude of happiness would mean to severely miss out on one of the many promises God has for us!

We can start to define biblical joy by looking to the letters of Paul, James, and Peter.

Paul wrote Philippians while in prison, and he uses the words, “joy,” “joyful,” and “rejoice” 16 times! How could Paul possibly be joyful while being beaten, imprisoned, and facing losing his life?

James gives us great insight into this dilemma as well:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”  –James 1:2

What could it look like to experience joy in trial? In suffering? In pain?

Here’s the thing: The joy we have comes not from the experience itself, but from knowing that we will come out of these struggles victorious! We can trust in Him, His sovereignty, and His goodness.

However, as Christians, we are not promised happiness. In fact, to be a Christian means to suffer.

In Luke, Jesus calls those who wish to be His disciple to “deny themselves and take up their cross daily” (Luke 9:23).

To follow Jesus is to look different than the world. 1 Peter is a book that reminds us to be strong in our stand for faith, despite persecution from the world around us. Peter gives us real ways to honor God despite our struggles, and reminds us to place our hope in the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead and has “given us new birth so that we might share in what belongs to Him” (1 Peter 4).

“In all this, greatly rejoice” (1 Peter 1:6)!

Though we may suffer, though we may mourn, though we may be unhappy… We can rejoice in knowing that we have a Savior who loves us enough to die for us, and we are secure in our salvation!

Happiness may come and go, but as Christians and strong pillars of God’s light and love we are marked by the infinite joy we carry. We are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8) despite our sufferings. We find joy in the fact that our sins have once and for all been nailed to the cross. We rejoice in knowing that we have a God whose purpose will stand and who only wants good for us.

Daniel Crawford, the worship leader of the college ministry I’m involved in, said this about being in a season of suffering:

“I might understand Jesus less, but I will love him more.”

And that, my friends, is true joy. In the silence and the waiting, still we can know He is good.

Live this week embodying the joy that we are allowed because of the Savior who treasures us and guides us through our trials!


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