How do you laugh when life isn’t amusing, or smile when your heart is heavy?
Is it possible to sing and dance when the music has stopped playing? Or, what’s pleasant about a pandemic?
I’ve been asking myself these kinds of questions lately. Like it or not, our world is not what it was a year ago. Changes are occurring; some we enjoy, and some we don’t.
It bothers me that so many are unemployed. I think that’s a legitimate concern. It’s obvious why people are desperate for businesses to re-open. Some wrestle with the fear of catching a virus. They opt to stay in, rather than return to the marketplace—also a valid worry.
I recognize that many are fearful, and some are angry—wrestling with emotions triggered by things they cannot control. This pandemic isn’t the first time in my life when things feel out of control.
I admit some of those occasions were the consequence of my sins. Others were not. It annoyed me when well-meaning individuals would make statements like: “Be thankful for all of the good things you have, Richard.” I remember thinking: You have no idea what I’m going through.
Perhaps that thought crosses your mind when you’re struggling, and others want you to put on a happy face. I get it.
Possibly the Thessalonians had similar emotions when the apostle, Paul, instructs them to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
For the Thessalonian believers, the Greek term “kyrios, ‘Lord,’” (κύριος) referred to Jesus Christ. However, this same word was used as a title typically reserved for the emperor, — a highly controversial issue. Who were they to worship? The emperor, or Jesus?
What do we do when the emperor demands something that conflicts with our convictions?
In the middle of this conflict, Paul instructs them:
“…admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”
To accomplish that mission requires a healthy perspective when life is disruptive or challenging. And our attitude determines how we will live out our life.
To rejoice is to enjoy a state of happiness and well-being, despite our circumstances. Unless we learn to rejoice, we are significantly impaired in our effectiveness to admonish, encourage, help, and be patient with others.
It’s the “glad person” who avoids being evil to others and does good for others.
A healthy perspective allows us to breathe, think, and be present; to ourselves and others. Maintaining a sense of joy is essential if we desire a positive outlook. But happiness is more than a happy face. Dallas Willard reminds us:
“Joy is not pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of well-being. Hope in the goodness of God is joy’s indispensable support.” [Emphasis mine]
Joy is the fruit of a rejoicing heart!
G.K. Chesterton was an English writer, lay theologian, and a literary and art critic. He was known for his wit, and was referred to as “the prince of paradox.”
In commenting on “joy,” he wrote: “Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagans, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”
As a follower of Christ, I have a huge secret that enables me to rejoice always, no matter what my circumstance is.
I love the way Robbie Castleman speaks of this “gigantic secret:”
“This ‘gigantic secret of the Christian’ needs to be let out of the bag today. Joy needs to break forth as a new rhythm of life in the middle of the mundane, in the mire of the world’s misery, and even in the midst of sinners!”
My secret to a healthy perspective is rooted in my fear (reverence and awe) of the Lord. I don’t have to be oblivious to pain or inattentive to heartbreak in order to rejoice!
I’m able to laugh—not because I don’t connect with the problems of a pandemic—but because of God’s promises. This “gigantic joy” is a bottomless pool of hope that allows me to sing and dance, even when I can’t hear the music—because joy produces a song of its own.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Th 5:14–15.
 Robbie Castleman, “The Last Word: Joy, the Gigantic Secret,” Themelios 30, no. 3 (2005): 74–75.