The Christian life experience can be summed up “as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing” (2 Co. 6:10). There is sorrow in this present fallen world, plenty of sorrow, yet there is continual rejoicing in Christ and because of Christ. Both sorrow and rejoicing can be experienced at the same time.
A theme of Philippians is to rejoice in the Lord always (Php. 4:4). “Rejoice” is used 11 times in this epistle. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Php. 4:4). “Rejoice” is the Greek chaíro, which means to be glad and is so translated in Mark 14:11. But “rejoice” doesn’t mean what the world means by happy. It is a bigger, more comprehensive word. The world thinks of rejoicing only in terms of an emotional high, but biblical rejoicing isn’t exactly that. One’s emotional state can fluctuate even while rejoicing in the Lord.
Consider the context of the epistle to the Philippians. (1) One can rejoice even when bewaring of evil workers and false teachers, which is not a happy subject and is not something to smile about (Php. 3:1-2). Paul wasn’t laughing when he gave this severe warning, and he didn’t intend for the saints at Philippi to laugh when contemplating it and acting on it. So one can be sober and serious while at the same time rejoicing in the Lord. (2) One can rejoice even in sickness and even when one is sorrowful about earthly events. Paul was sorrowful about the sickness of Epaphroditus, a sickness so terrible that he was nigh unto death. Epaphroditus was sent to Rome by the church at Philippi to carry their offering and to minister to Paul’s needs, but in Rome he got deathly sick. Paul mentions sorrow three times in his description of this sickness. “... but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful” (Php. 2:27-28). When the believer is sick, or his loved ones are sick, there is sorrow, but there can also be rejoicing because of one’s confidence in God’s love and presence and promises, and because we know that even death cannot separate us from our Saviour. We sorrow, but we do not sorrow “even as others which have no hope” (1 Th. 4:13).
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