God and Sexual Assault

Joy Doesn’t Mean Happy

What does "rejoice always" mean?

“Rejoice always…for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18 NIV

I can’t tell you the number of times people have told me to have joy and be happy with my circumstances. As if they are interchangeable. They are not. There is nothing to be happy about in reliving, recovering from sexual assault and the physical and emotional pain that goes with it. It sucks. There no easy way to say it. It does.

However, joy is not happiness. Allow me to share an example. I know in this example they were also most likely happy, but think about HOW Jesus died. The struggle of knowing this alone, brings sorrow to those who were so close to Him.

Even though the passage I’m about to share with you describes a triumphant return, it is joy which they are experiencing after the shock.

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.

His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 

Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” Matthew 28:1-7 NIV

Think for a minute if it were you who went to the tomb and found Jesus had risen. Once encountering Him on the path to tell others, you now knew He was the living God able to conquer death.

You are filled with Joy. A peace. An intimate knowledge of the living God.

When Paul wrote, 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always…” He was talking to the church of the Thessalonians giving them instructions. Instructions which apply to us today.

However, rejoicing always, has nothing to do with walking around with a happy face and smiling to every person you see. It does not mean you cannot be sad, depressed, or cry.

It means we have Jesus in our hearts, and having Jesus in our hearts allows us to be joyful even through the crying, sadness, and depression. It is the intimate knowledge of the living God. His peace inside of us. Knowing that you have eternity with Him.

I know there are many days, I don’t “feel” joyful, but it isn’t about the “feeling”. It is about knowing we have God with us at all times. Through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Through this recovery.

We can rejoice always because Jesus not only died on the cross for our sins, but He rose again to bring us life. This is where we find our true joy.

Father God,

There are so many days I do not feel your joy in my heart. So many things compete for it, and I allow them to drown it out. Please help me to rejoice in knowing You came and died for me, and rose again to give me life with You forever. Help me cling to Your joy as I continue this journey.



© 2020 Susan M. Clabaugh. All Rights Reserved.





Susan is an author and speaker who loves to share her journey of God's redemption and encourage others as they look to God. As a former elemetary teacher with a passion for teaching, Susan also owns her own tutoring and consulting business where she empowers students and parents in reading. Susan lives in Lee's Summit, Missouri, with her adorable and grumpy Persian cat, Mia.

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