God's ideal for His children
(J.R. Miller, "The Secret of Gladness")
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4
For most of us it is not easy to be always joyful; yet we should learn our lesson so well that whether amid circumstances of sorrow or of gladness — our song shall never be interrupted.
Joy is God's ideal for His children. He means for them to be sunny-faced and happy-hearted. He does not wish them to be heavy-hearted and sad. He has made the world full of beauty and full of music. The mission of the gospel is to start songs wherever it goes. Its keynote is joy — good tidings of great joy to all people. We are commanded to rejoice always.
This does not mean that the Christian's life is exempt from trouble, pain, and sorrow. The gospel does not give us a new set of conditions with the hard things left out. The Christian's home is not sheltered from life's storms — any more than the worldly man's home is. Sickness enters the circle where the voice of prayer is heard, with its hot breath — as well as the home where no heart adores and no knee bends before God. In the holiest home sanctuary, the loving group gathers about the bed of death, and there is sorrow of bereavement.
Nor is grief less poignant in the believer's case, than in that of the man who knows not Christ. Grace does not make . . .
love less tender,
the pang of affliction less sharp,
the sense of loss less keen, or
the feeling of loneliness less deep.
God does not give joy to His children by making them incapable of suffering. Divine grace makes the heart all the more tender, and the capacity for loving all the deeper; hence it increases rather than lessens the measure of sorrow when afflictions come.
But the joy of the Christian is something which lies too deep to be disturbed by the waves and tides of earthly trouble. It has its source in the very heart of God. Sorrow is not prevented by grace, but is swallowed up in the floods of heavenly joy. That was what Jesus meant when He talked to His disciples of joy just as He was about to go out to Gethsemane. He said their sorrow would be turned into joy, and that they would have a joy which the world could not take from them; that is, a joy which earth's deepest darkness could not put out. God's joy is not the absence of sorrow, but divine comfort overcoming sorrow — sunshine striking through the black clouds, transfiguring them!
"You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy!" John 16:20