For me, discouragement was the most challenging part of making every day the best day of my life. We all get discouraged from time to time. Perhaps things don’t go the way we planned or people don’t respond to us the way we had hoped. No matter how much we try to control life, things happen every day that we don’t expect. So how do we deal with discouragement as Christians? Well, the apostle Paul knew all about hard times, and even though he was facing death in a Roman prison he wrote,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)
How could Paul find anything to rejoice about in such terrible and depressing conditions? Perhaps this is the key. Dwelling in the joy of the Lord has nothing to do with our living conditions, but it has everything to do with our perspective!
To rejoice means to choose joy regardless of our circumstances. Contrary to what the world may tell us, joy is not an emotional response. Just as John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb when Jesus was near, true joy is our response to the presence of God. If we exalt God even when we don’t feel like it, the Lord’s presence will grow within us, and with His presence comes His joy!
I have learned that the feeling of joy comes when I make a conscious decision to trust the Lord regardless of what is happening around me. How empowering it is to know that my spiritual and emotional states are not controlled by people or situations. Whenever I feel sad or overwhelmed, I can praise the Lord anyway. In fact, those are the times when I need to praise the Lord the most! As I make an offering of praise, the Lord fills my heart with His joy.
Choosing to rejoice in the Lord doesn’t mean living in denial. It’s a deliberate decision to focus on Him rather than ourselves. No matter what happens, we know God has a plan and He can work all things together for our good (see Romans 8:28). Therefore, there is no reason to be discouraged. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
In my ministry, some of the most joyful Christians I’ve met were not worshiping God in churches but rather behind prison bars. As strange as it may sound, when incarcerated men and women discover freedom in Christ, they rejoice! When they discover their sins can be forgiven, they celebrate! The joy these prisoners experience is based on God’s love for them regardless of their past sins or present situation.
Oh that we could live in that kind of freedom every day! Satan wants us to believe we are held captive by our circumstances. The truth is, we have power over our circumstances when we choose to rejoice in the Lord.
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. (Acts 16:25–26)
The chains that held Paul and Silas were broken and their prison doors opened as they joyfully praised God. Like Paul, Silas, and my friends in prison, we can overcome our circumstances by worshiping God wherever we are. When we praise God regardless of how hopeless things may look, spiritual strongholds will fall in our hearts. As we exalt the Lord above all else, especially ourselves, He sets us free from whatever our bondage may be.
Today, let’s ask the Lord to help us choose to rejoice in the midst of heartache, disappointment, and every struggle we face. The joy of the Lord will be our strength as we learn to trust Him even in the fire!
Father, thank You for the example of Jesus who was joy personified even as He died on the cross. Thank You that Your joy is available to me right now no matter where I am or what I may be going through. I invite You into my suffering and pray that Your joy will be my strength! In Jesus’ name, amen.
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