Read Philippians 4:4-9.

In his concluding exhortations to the Philippians, Paul says “rejoice in the Lord always.” Perhaps not feeling that this was emphatic enough, he doubles down, “again I will say, rejoice!”

The mature Christian life should be characterized by joy. In the face of celebration or of sorrow, at times of pleasure or pain, there should be an underlying joy. Paul makes it an imperative. But can I just decide to be joyful? Is that really under my control?

Like any other fruit, joy must be planted, watered, and cultivated. Weeds must be removed. It must be protected from the north wind. What can I do to cultivate joy?

Paul gives several directions. The first is to “let your gentleness be evident to all.” Love leads to joy, and love is evidenced and edified by gentleness.

The second is trust. Anxiety is the death of joy, and trust is the antidote for anxiety. Remember that the Lord is near. Do not worry. If you have a concern, bring it to the Lord—and then leave it with him.

The third is thanksgiving. In all situations give thanks. When you make a request known to God, do it with thanksgiving.

“Blessed are those who mourn.” As long as sin and brokenness and alienation persist, there is a time for mourning. But those who mourn shall be comforted. When the bridegroom arrives, it is time to celebrate, time for joy.

At times joy is exuberant, a smile, a laugh, a song that bursts forth. At other times it
is hidden, a river running through the soul that must remain secret for now.

Joy and peace go hand in hand. When you allow the quiet but pervasive joy of the Spirit to be made manifest in you, when anxiety is absent, when love is all, then peace like a river will attend your way. Peace will guard your heart and mind.

Hold onto that joy. Don’t let the cold winds of the world blow it away. Whatever is honorable, whatever is true, whatever is pure, if there is any excellence, think about these things. And be filled with thanksgiving.


Harry Plantinga

Harry Plantinga is a professor of computer science at Calvin University and the director of ccel.org and hymnary.org.