The apostle Paul encourages us to: Rejoice in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4) Yet, how can we accept his words with any sense of integrity? The constancy of always troubles us. Rejoicing, when there is so much that is broken, sick, and distressful in our lives and in our world, feels unattainable and even cruel.

We rejoice always because joy is a journey. It is a journey of gratitude and love in the companionship of Jesus who promises us new life beyond our pain. Journeys are a mixed bag. We walk. We run. We stumble. We rest. We get lost. But we stay the course. We don’t give up. Joy’s journey works the same way. It is stubborn persistence to stay the course and not give up that defines rejoicing always.

The poet Mary Oliver has wise words for us on the necessity of walking the journey of joy:

Don't Hesitate by Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,

don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty

of lives and whole towns destroyed or about

to be. We are not wise, and not very often

kind. And much can never be redeemed.

Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this

is its way of fighting back, that sometimes

something happens better than all the riches

or power in the world. It could be anything,

but very likely you notice it in the instant

when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the

case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid

of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

From Swan: Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver, Beacon Press 2010


As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. . .. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 

John 15: 9 & 11


  • Reflect on this week’s scripture and the piece by Mary Oliver. Are there any words or ideas that especially resonate with you or challenge you?
  • Look back over your life as a journey through the lens of joy. When did you hesitate to allow joy in your life? When did you know joy’s plenty?
  • As you think back over the past six weeks, how has your definition of joy changed?

  • Make a list of what you need to continue on your personal journey of joy. Pick one thing and commit to it as a spiritual practice.
  • Our prayer, Psalm 33:20-22, is our prayer from week one. It’s a closing reminder that joy is composed of trust filled waiting, the recognition of God’s help, protection, and faithful love.


Our soul is waiting for the LORD,
Our God, our help and our shield.
In you do our hearts find joy;
We trust in your holy name.
May your faithful love be upon us,
As we hope in you, O LORD.