The Secret to Unshakeable Joy in Unwanted Circumstances

The Secret to Unshakeable Joy in Unwanted Circumstances

The Secret to Unshakeable Joy in Unwanted Circumstances

I called my husband that afternoon at the end of my rope. For months I’d been dealing with health issues with no clear solutions. I’d been going to one doctor for digestive problems and another for an itchy rash that had broken out on my entire face. The rash had just found its way to my eyes, causing discomfort pretty much all of the time. And, then, that afternoon we realized my daughter had lice. Again.

To clear my mind, that evening after dinner I decided to go for a run with my dog. About a mile in, I came off a curb with a slight stumble, and as I did so, I heard a sound that reverberated within my body: crack. I soon realized that I couldn’t put any weight on my ankle, so I sat on the curb calling my husband again, while my dog happily licked the tears off my face. A trip to the ER confirmed my hearing: I had broken my ankle.

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"He's worthy of my rejoicing, even when that rejoicing comes through tears."

"He's worthy of my rejoicing, even when that rejoicing comes through tears."

All of this happened just as I was finishing up writing a Bible study on unshakeable joy. And, to be honest, I didn’t feel very joyful. I felt disappointed, discouraged, exhausted, and in physical pain. I wasn’t dealing with life-altering suffering, but a pile-up of unfavorable circumstances that weighed on my heart.

Thankfully, by the Spirit’s faithful prodding, I remembered Paul’s words to Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4: 4). When circumstances leave us weary and worn, there’s a way to experience a joy that sustains and revives. It’s not found in the goodness of our day, but in the goodness of our God.

I turned my eyes from my black and blue swollen ankle and remembered the best thing in all the world: God. He’s worthy of my rejoicing, even when that rejoicing comes through tears. Three specific considerations restored my joy and allowed my heart to sing: God’s salvation, God’s providence, and God’s goodness.

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1. God’s salvation

1. God’s salvation

The solid rock of unshakeable joy is our salvation. No matter what happens, we’re God’s children. He’s redeemed us from the punishment of sin, rescued us from its power, and one day he’ll restore us completely by removing us from the presence of sin altogether. We have a past reality (the cross) and a future hope (heaven) that offers us present joy. 

When circumstances overwhelm, the truth of our salvation gives us reasons to rejoice. We can pray with David, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12). A feeling of joy walks alongside our remembrance of our salvation.

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2. God’s providence

2. God’s providence

Another biblical foundation for rejoicing is the understanding that all circumstances are part of God’s will for our lives. Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:16–18, italics added). So, the itchy face, the stomach issues, the lice, and the broken ankle all happened according to God’s plan for my life. I may not understand why, but I can trust that he has a plan in all these unwanted things.

Surely Joseph must have wondered about God’s plan when he was thrown into a pit by his brothers, and then imprisoned because he faithfully resisted Potiphar’s wife. As readers, we have the benefit of seeing God’s plan for redemption by reading the entire story, but over the many years of separation from his family, Joseph must have wondered what God was doing.  However, God had a plan and his plan was good.

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3. God’s goodness

3. God’s goodness

After many years, Joseph is reunited with his brothers and they acknowledge the wrong they committed. Joseph replies, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20). God is able to work circumstances for good, even when others intend evil. This is most evident in the life of Jesus. Peter taught, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). The most evil act that ever occurred happened according to God’s plan and was purposed by God for good. God works good even when people work evil.

Paul assures us in Romans 8:28-30 that God is working all circumstances for good in our lives as well. In every hardship we endure, God is at work. Nothing is wasted. God is forming and fashioning us to look more like Jesus. Therefore, we can rejoice in the Lord in the midst of our tears! Our suffering is not in vain; it will produce good in our lives. God prunes that he might increase our fruit. And, one of those Spirit-filled fruit is joy.

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"In your presence there is fullness of joy..."

"In your presence there is fullness of joy..."

By meditating on these truths, my circumstances didn’t change. I continued to deal with these issues for months to come. But, by God’s grace, my feelings about my circumstances changed. I experience great joy, not in the hardships themselves, but in the God of my salvation. Jesus is the source of lasting, unshakeable, eternal joy. Everything else is temporary. Only he can provide what we’re looking for in life. As the psalmist rejoiced, so may we:

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

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Melissa Kruger currently serves on staff as Women's Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church in Charlotte, NC, and as an editor for The Gospel Coalition. She enjoys teaching women in her church and at conferences around the country. The author of In All Things: A Nine-Week Devotional Bible Study on Unshakeable Joy, Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood and The Envy of Eve, she regularly writes articles for the Gospel Coalition, Ligonier Ministry's TableTalk magazine, and enCourage, a blog of the Presbyterian Church in America. Her most cherished roles include being a wife to Mike, president and New Testament Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary-Charlotte, and a mother to her three children.


About Health & Beauty

God's Word tells us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, that outward beauty is deceptive and fleeting while inward beauty is unfading and of great worth. It doesn't take long to look at today's media and see how the world is trying to convince us otherwise! Read uplifting and encouraging real life stories from Christian women about true beauty and health. Start seeing yourself as the women God created you to be!