“… as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (2 Cor. 6:10)
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)
Recently I was re-reading the book Hot Tub Religion: Thoughts on Christian Living in the Material World by J.I. Packer. I read it back in the late 80’s (when it first came out) and it had several excellent chapters on various aspects of Christian living.
Chapter six, in particular, stood out. In it, Packer deals with the subject of “Joy: A Neglected Discipline.”
Here are a few great quotes from this chapter:
“Christians are not victims and prisoners of either the past or the present. The powers of forgiveness and new creation are at work in their lives. Before them lies a sure and certain hope of deliverance, transformation, and glory. Joy will someday be theirs in fullest measure, and they should not give way to the black feeling that life will never be better for them than it is now.
Christians have, so to speak, larger souls than other people; for grief and joy, like desolation and hope, or pain and peace, can coexist in their lives in a way that non-Christians know nothing about. Grief, desolation, and pain are feelings triggered by present situations, but faith produces joy, hope, and peace at all times.
This does not mean that grief, desolation, and pain cease to be felt (that idea is inhuman); it means that something else is experienced along with the hurt. It becomes possible for Christians today, like Paul long ago, to be ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Cor. 6:10).”
“Joy is not an accident of temperament or an unpredictable providence; joy is a matter of choice. Paul is directing his readers to choose to rejoice (Phil. 4:4), because it is in and through the activity of rejoicing that joy becomes a personal reality.”
“Paul can choose to rejoice in one aspect of a situation of which other aspects are calculated to depress: he rejoices that Christ is being preached and refuses to brood on the bad motives of the preachers or to indulge in self-pity because he is not able to do what they are doing (Phil. 1:15-18).
This, more than anything else, makes it clear that joy is a choice; one chooses to focus one’s mind on facts that call forth joy. Such is the secret of ‘rejoicing in the Lord always,’ namely, to choose what you think about. It is as simple – and as difficult! – as that.
Controlling and directing one’s thoughts is a habit, and the more one practices it the better one becomes at it.”
“The secret of joy for believers lies in the fine art of Christian thinking… Joy – that is, rejoicing in the Lord – is thus a basic discipline of the Christian life, essential to spiritual health and vitality.”