“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 ESV)
An unhappy Christian is a contradiction.
This is not because a Christian’s life is free from unhappy things. The downers of life – things like sorrow, suffering , stress, trials, etc. – are just as real for the Christian as anyone else. Unhappy things can cause unhappy Christians.
Yet the reason an unhappy Christian is a contradiction is because a Christian’s happiness is grounded in something other than the changing circumstances of life. A Christian’s happiness is grounded in the Lord.
The Scripture tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Happiness in other things may wax or wane but joy in the Lord is to be constant. In other words, a Christian is commanded to always be happy even in the unhappy things of life because supreme happiness is found “in the Lord.”
The Lord is a fountain of greater joy for the believer: “I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4 ESV). United to Christ by faith, we possess all spiritual blessings in Him (Eph. 1:3). This makes us happier in a way which exceeds earthly happiness: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalm 4:7 ESV).
A Christian can still be happy when in the midst of bad times or when being mistreated by bad people or when overwhelmed by bad circumstances: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 ESV). This happiness even perseveres in suffering like the apostle Paul who was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10 ESV).
Unhappy things can be mood-changers. They broadside us quickly and swing our emotions wildly. And this is when we must remember what we have in the Lord. He is unshakeable and unchangeable. His love and grace to us is abundant beyond measure. Christ has purchased you as His very own possession and He will never let you go. All you have been promised in Christ is yours.
When you sense that unhappiness is beginning to take hold, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look to the cross. Remind yourself of the joy of the gospel. None of the blessings of your salvation have changed. Nothing about the Lord has changed. Thus your joy in the Lord need not change either. In fact, your happiness in the Lord will support and sustain in you in unhappy times “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10 ESV).
Don’t let unhappy forces make you predominantly an unhappy person. Because your happiness is grounded in the Lord, you can be joyful at all times. Sure, this joy may look different in varied circumstances, such as a sorrowful joy and a celebratory joy. But it is still joy nevertheless.
Don’t let unhappy things, people, or events steal or stifle your happiness in the Lord. Christ tells us “your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22 ESV). The joy we have in the Lord really cannot be taken away. But the problem is that we often give it away. We allow unhappy things to rob us of our happiness in the Lord.
This is why we should take the command of Phil. 4:4 seriously and rejoice always in Christ. This means that when it comes to our happiness in Him we will be unyielding. We will not yield our Christian joy to anyone or anything. Our happiness in Christ is indestructible. There is no reason to give it away.
Thus an unhappy Christian is a contradiction. God has given us a joy in Him that should never be yielded. Unhappy things threaten our joy all the time, but we as Christians can still be joyful because our happiness is grounded in the Lord.