October 18, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 1 Thessalonians 5:16
Rejoicing always isn’t a matter of pretending. It isn’t denying your feelings of sadness. Rather, rejoicing always is a result of paying attention to God’s grace in your life. As you see all that God has done and give thanks to God, your heart will be lifted. Even your sorrow will be mixed with joy. And you’ll be stirred up to offer joyful thanks to God for all of God’s amazing grace to you.
This devotion is part of the series: Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians
In yesterday’s devotion I began reflecting on a very short verse from 1 Thessalonians: “Rejoice always” (5:16). I talked about how this verse does not mean we should never feel sad or express our grief. After all, Jesus did these things. But it is possible to rejoice even in the midst of sorrow or to sorrow in the midst of rejoicing. I’d like to think more about this with you because I know that for some, the mixture of joy and sorrow can feel unfamiliar, even impossible. But even for those who are familiar with how these can intermingle, we may still wonder: How can I rejoice always?
First, I’d like to note that rejoicing isn’t the same as feeling happy. Yes, those emotions are similar in some ways and often overlap. But joy is a deeper, longer, and wider kind of emotion. Let me give one example. When I’m hiking with my family, including my dog, I feel happy. It’s one of my favorite things to do in life. (In the photo, you can see my wife, son, daughter, and dog, hiking in Rock Creek, California.) Though there is an element of joy in this experience, fuller joy comes at other times when I reflect upon what I have experienced. In those times I feel profoundly thankful for God’s gift of my family and for the beauty of the natural world. I’m also grateful for my health, which allows me to enjoy hiking as I do. As I savor the memories of such times with my family, my feelings are different from what they were when I’m huffing and puffing on the trail. They’re quieter, slower, and more sustainable. And they’re mixed up with gratitude, tons of gratitude.
Moreover, joy yearns to be expressed in praise. When I’m happy while hiking, I do sometimes talk with God, offering thanks for what I’m experiencing. But mainly I focus on hiking and all of what it evokes in me. Later, in times of joyful reflection, my soul pours out praise to God. Rejoicing, according to Scripture, isn’t just a matter of feeling joy. It’s also expressing that joy in worship and praise.
We find an example of the connection between joy and thankful worship in 1 Thessalonians 3:9, where Paul and his colleagues write, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?” Joy inspires thanksgiving to God. In fact, deep joy makes us realize that we’ll never be able to fully express to God how grateful we are.
The close connection between gratitude and joy is found elsewhere in Scripture. For example, in Psalm 107 it says, “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy” (107:21-22). Gratitude flows into rejoicing in the form of musical expressions of joy.
If you’re wondering “How can I rejoice always?” there are many ways to answer your question. Today I’d like to underscore the connection between rejoicing and gratitude. If you’d like to feel more grateful, reflect on how God has blessed you. As you do, tell God about it. Offer thanks. Be specific about ways you have been a recipient of God’s grace. Communicate your joy in prayer, spoken, silent, or sung.
For sure, it’s good and right to celebrate God’s grace when you are alone with the Lord. But one of the surest ways to rejoicing involves sharing this experience with others. When you let others know how God has been good to you, their joy and gratitude increase. The same is true when you hear of God’s blessings in their lives. Corporate worship should be, among other things, a time for the regular expression of joyful gratitude to God. But we don’t have to do this only in official worship services. We can share our joyful thanks in small groups, around the dinner table, or over a cup of coffee.
Rejoicing always isn’t a matter of pretending. It isn’t denying your feelings of sadness. Rather, rejoicing always is a result of paying attention to God’s grace in your life. As you see all that God has done and give thanks to God, your heart will be lifted. Even your sorrow will be mixed with you. And you’ll be stirred up to offer joyful thanks for God for all of God’s amazing grace to you.
In tomorrow’s Life for Leaders devotion, I’d like to share with you a recent experience I’ve had with rejoicing that’s motivated by gratitude even as it’s mixed with sorrow. For now, however, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.
What helps you to rejoice?
What makes it hard for you to rejoice?
Do you have a practice of offering thanks to God on a regular basis? If so, what do you do? If not, what might you do?
Can you remember a time in your life when you were able to express joyful gratitude to God even in the midst of sadness?
Set aside some time to reflect on all the ways God is blessing you these days. As you do this, tell God about it. Be generous in your expression of joyful thanks.
Gracious God, how good you are to me!
I confess that it’s too easy for me to overlook your goodness or to take it for granted. But when I pause to reflect, I’m struck by all the ways you have blessed me and are blessing me.
Help me, Lord, to pay attention to all the ways your grace is manifested in my life. As I do, set my heart free to offer joyful thanks and praise to you! Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Resurrection Joy.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.