A mindless sense of well being that ignores what is going on around you is not what Paul has in mind when he tells the Philippians to Rejoice In The Lord Always. The letter he writes to them is filled with recognition of difficult circumstances that they are all facing. In the opening words of the letter Paul acknowledges his own situation as a prisoner facing execution. A little later he encourages the Philippians to remain strong in the face of opposition that currently threatens them as well. Yet even in the face of execution, persecution, and suffering, Paul repeatedly calls on them to have JOY, to Rejoice In The Lord.
Firstly let us note that Paul has issued this statement as a command from the Lord. Has God ever issued a command that could not be carried out? Never! The very fact of a divine command proves that obedience is possible. Note further, God not only demands that we rejoice; He demands that we rejoice CEASELESSLY.
So how do we follow this command to Rejoice In The Lord Always, even when things are going horribly wrong? There is a basis for it: Paul does not tell us to rejoice in our circumstances. He tells us to Rejoice In The Lord and he tells us this REPEATEDLY. He even acknowledges that he is repeating himself but says that it is good for us to be reminded again and again to rejoice always. But our rejoicing must be “IN THE LORD”. When our circumstances cause us nothing but grief, disappointments, fears and doubts we can still be glad and strong because our JOY is not based on fluctuating circumstances, but has it's SOURCE in the One Who loves us and is the object of our love
Secondly, Rejoicing is a matter of our CHOICE. There is a great difference between JOY & HAPPINESS. Joy is the realm of the spirit whereas happiness is related to our emotions, feelings and circumstances. When things are going well, we have happiness. It is good to have happiness, but we cannot have it all the time.
To illustrate: If I lost my wallet, I would be very happy when the founder returned it to me. After a few days, I would no longer have the feeling of happiness although my wallet is still with me. What I have actually lost is the feeling of happiness at the time of finding it.
Joy on the other hand, is not dependent on feelings or circumstances. There is only one source of Joy and that is God - God Himself! That is why it is possible to "Rejoice In The Lord Always!" and they are able to do so because "the Lord is near" (Philippians 4:5) - [In His Presence is fullness of JOY (Psalm 16:11)]. You will note that while rejoicing they are also encouraged to submit their petitions and prayers which include the spirit of thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6) And the resultance is having "the peace of God" (Philippians 4:7) in midst of whatever circumstances.
Beloved, if we but exercise our faith and choice to "rejoice in the Lord", in the midst of our adverse circumstances, these negative feelings of grief, fear, doubt and anger will just melt away!
Therefore, we are able to declare apostle James' message to "count it all joy even when we fall into divers trials or testings" (James 1:2) because it is "The Joy of the Lord" which is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) that will carry us through.