Rejoice Despite the Pain

Posted on April 14, 2020

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By David Ettinger

Looking Within
In 1954, Nat King Cole scored a hit with “Smile.” The two opening stanzas of this popular song are:

Smile tho’ your heart is aching / Smile even tho’ it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky / You’ll get by

If you smile / Thro’ your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow / You’ll see the sun come shining thro’ for you

The idea is that no matter how bad your circumstances, you can find inner-strength and fortitude by bucking up under the weight, forcing a smile, and making yourself happy. The gaping hole in this theory is that it depends on sheer will, which is the product of human effort. And human effort is reliant upon the human condition, which is what caused the sorrow in the first place.

How can one call upon something as a source of strength when that source was the very cause of the sorrow? Though well meaning, the song’s sentiment finds no truth in reality. Human beings can find no solace within themselves in times of anguish, because it is their frailty and futility that has created the anguish.

The ‘Outside’ Source
Because of humanity’s frail and futile state, it must search outside of itself for peace and comfort. This is what the human race has done since Creation, and has failed miserably – with one exception.

Unless humanity seeks comfort and consolation in God, it searches frivolously. Only God can give humanity what it seeks, which is stated succinctly in Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

Though much can be written about “perfect peace,” note the phrase, “You will keep.” These three words point to both the promise and the only One capable of fulfilling it. The “You” here is God, and He has declared Himself capable of “keeping” or “preserving” you in that state of peace. And notice there are no “maybes” or “ifs” inferred.

Smiling when one’s heart is heavy may give temporary solace, but having the peace of God, which comes only through salvation in Jesus Christ, is eternally permanent!

‘Rejoice,’ Not ‘Smile’
There is no verse in the Bible that advocates smiling – searching within – to bring comfort in the midst of sorrow. What the Bible does prescribe is “rejoicing” – finding joy or taking delight in – the One who keeps us in perfect peace.

To prove this point, the apostle Paul, while shackled in a deplorable Roman prison, commanded the believers of Philippi – and us – to rejoice in all situations:

  •  “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you” (Philippians 2:17).
  •  “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:18).
  •  “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (Philippians 3:1).
  •  “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Therefore, I’d like to amend the lyrics to “Smile”:

Rejoice [in God] tho’ your heart is aching / Rejoice even tho’ it’s breaking

When there are clouds in the sky / You’ll get by

If you Rejoice / Thro’ your fear and sorrow

Rejoice and tomorrow / You’ll see the sun come shining thro’ for you

So, the next time sorrow overwhelms your heart, remember that you are a child of the Lord Jesus Christ, join your heart with Paul, and “Rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice”!