THE STORY BEHIND THE HYMN “REJOICE IN THE LORD” (REJOICE HYMNS NO. 680)
My sense is that this hymn has become a favourite of many in our church. It speaks of how one should rejoice when God seems far away when nothing seems to be going right for us. The words by its composer, Ron Hamilton has encouraged many who are undergoing or have undergone trials and tribulations in life.
In 1978, cancer was discovered in Ron Hamilton’s left eye. Many people in his circumstance would be emotionally devastated and cave in, yield to self-pity or even leave the faith. Although Ron and his wife Shelly never fully understood why God allowed him to go through this ordeal, they committed everything to God’s gracious hand and let His will be done. He said,
Hearing a doctor say I had cancer and may die was a very sobering experience. Many people would see the loss of my eye and the need for wearing a patch as a great trial. But I see it as one of the greatest blessings of my life. It reminds me that God teaches us the greatest lessons in the deepest valleys.
Immediately after the loss of his eye due to cancer, Ron Hamilton penned a song based on Philippians 4:4, which says
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
He also read the Book of Job to understand why God allowed Christians to suffer. In Job 23:10, it says
But he knows the way that I take: when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
We are further reminded in James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:7
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:7)
In the case of Ron Hamilton, one of the outcomes of the loss of his eye was the writing of this much-loved hymn, which has ministered to and blessed the lives of many.
Were there people in the Bible who also rejoiced despite their suffering? The Apostle Paul was a good example. He suffered greatly for the sake of the gospel. For instance, he was whipped and cast in prison together with Silas (Acts 16). Yet, in Acts 16:25, we were told that Paul and Silas were singing in prison despite their ordeal, and the eventual outcome was that the Philippian jailer and his entire family became Christians.
Paul and Ron Hamilton had in one thing in common – they knew that God had a purpose in allowing them to go through trials and tribulations. This was aptly stated by Paul in Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose
Sometimes, we may not know why God allows us to go through trials and tribulations. However, if we surrender ourselves to his will and say, “Lord, not my will but Thine be done.” God may reveal to us why He allowed those seemingly adverse events to occur our lives. In my case, I did wonder why God allowed me to go to a not-so-prestigious junior college but to a “neighbourhood” one instead. I fact, to this day, I can never thank Him enough for sending me to a “neighbourhood junior college because I was ministered to by a number of Christian teachers and friends and was truly blessed by them. Indeed,
O rejoice in the Lord, He makes no mistake.
He knoweth the end of each path that I take.
For when I am tried and purified,
I shall come forth as gold.
About Us. (n.d.). Majesty Music. Retrieved from https://www.majestymusic.com/about-majesty-music
Connor, G. (2011, May 19). Rejoice in the Lord: Trusting God through trials. Ministry 127. Retrieved from
By Dn. Ronnie Tan