The Christian life is often filled with joy – especially in the Easter season. Although this year, as in many years, the temptations to despair or be despondent are numerous. Consider the way our country and the people around us have been portraying Christ and His Word in the ongoing debates about religious freedom. Regardless of what you think about the business rights of Christian bakers and photographers, it seems that, everywhere I look, the teachings of our Lord and of His church are being misrepresented in order to set them up as vicious straw men. It’s frustrating to sit by as our Lord and His Word are dragged through the mud by those who don’t care to understand it past a snide headline or sassy picture they can forward on to their followers.
There are also the things that strike closer to home and try to take our joy. There’s the onslaught of cancer and death that keeps popping up not in the nightly news, but in our own lives. There is not a single person alive today who has not been scarred by cancer, disease, or death in some way. And it gets tiring. Seeing the pain on people’s faces as they grieve, or feeling the hurt in our own hearts gets to be too much to handle. It steals the joy out of our lives.
But that’s why Easter is so special. Because of the resurrection, even amid the fray of life in this fallen creation, even amid the daily battles and struggles of our existence, nothing can rob us of our joy, for Christ lives. When this world tries to rob us of our joy, we rejoice that our joy is safe with Christ, as are we. Politics and media misrepresentations and slander and hatred and name-calling and mudslinging cannot take our joy, for Christ lives. A culture of death cannot take our joy, for Christ lives. A world marred by disease cannot take our joy, for Christ lives.
Our Lord is a Lord of joy. Our Lord is the one “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:2). He endured it for us, to win us back from this melancholy world mired in misery and mourning. Redeeming us is what fills our Lord with joy, and He has done it. So now with Paul we rejoice at all times (Phil 4:4; 1 Thess 5:16), even in the midst of suffering and persecution (Romans 5:3), for Christ lives. The victory has been won. Let the world rant and rave and rage all it wants. They are but the death throes of a conquered foe. They are the last frustrated outbursts of an enemy whose ship is sunk. “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). Yes, they still hurt; and yes, they still produce tears. Yet all the tears of this life added together are but a drop in the ocean of eternal joy that awaits us as the people of God. For Christ lives, and if Christ is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8.31).
So rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again, rejoice (Phil 4:4). Scatter the darkness, break the gloom; / Sun, reveal an empty tomb / Shining with joy for all our sorrows, / Hope and peace for all tomorrows, / Life uneclipsed by doubt and dread: / Christ has risen from the dead! (LSB 481 st.1).