I’ve encountered some bad (albeit well-intentioned) teachings in my life about how a Christian should always have a smile on their face. This negates the reality of suffering in a sin-infested world, doesn’t take into account the many ways in which God speaks to us in His Word (including Lamentations), and certainly does not have Gethsemane nor the cross in view. In short, such teaching fails to make the distinction between a superficial happiness and deep inner joy.

As we see, the command to ‘rejoice always’ is conditioned by this rejoicing being “in the Lord.” (Phil 4:4) This is not a superficial smile pasted on to gloss over pain and ease others’ discomfort, but a knowledge that “this too shall pass,” and that we are living in the expectant hope of the ultimate realization of a place with no more tears, nor sorrows, nor pain. That time is not now, but we are encouraged in John to “be of good cheer,” despite tribulations of this world, for Christ has overcome.

And so it is Christ’s example we should follow in seeking to understand this joy, for certainly He fulfilled the prophecy foretelling He would be a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), but He endured suffering for the “joy set before Him.” (Hebrews 12:2-3) This joy, then, must see things with heaven’s eyes, in light of eternity. We would do well to consider what we are willing to endure for the joy set before us, for Christ has secured that joy for us!

Lest we fall into the other errant teaching that would have us think there is nothing to enjoy in this world, and we should be ever-vigilant that we not be caught having fun, Christ left us plenty of examples to counter that, as well. In When God Whispers Your Name, author Max Lucado points out that Jesus took his followers to a party on His first journey:

His purpose wasn’t to turn the water to wine. That was a favor for his friends.

His purpose wasn’t to show his power. The wedding host didn’t even know what Jesus did.

His purpose wasn’t to preach. There is no record of a sermon.

Really leaves only one reason. Fun. Jesus went to the wedding because he liked the people….

So, while we’re promised tribulation, if we have that love of which we spoke last week and truly like these other people God has created and given us fellowship with, we will surely experience joy on this earth, as well as in the world to come. And if we are true to Christ’s example, our lives here should be lived in such a way that they bring joy to others. After all, Christ enjoyed His short earthly life so much that He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, and was counted a friend to sinners and tax collectors (Matthew 11:18-19)…who do you count among your friends?  Perhaps we need to widen our circle!