Psalm 137:1-4 says, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?”

This psalm speaks of the children of Israel while in captivity in Babylon.  While there, they would gather at the rivers of Babylon.  Perhaps those very rivers reminded them of the home they had been taken from.  They longed for Zion (Jerusalem).  They “hanged our harps upon the willows” indicating that they had ceased in their songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.  The Babylonians would laugh at them and their condition and encourage them to “sing us one of the songs of Zion.”  They responded by saying they could not sing unto the Lord while they were in captivity in a strange land. 

Sadly enough, in their sorrow, they did not confess their sins that led them to be taken captive to Babylon in the first place.  The Lord had dutifully warned His people against being disobedient to Him.  Deuteronomy, chapter 28 is filled with the Lord’s warning.  Verse 15 says, “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee.”  We also read in verses 47-48, “Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.”

In Jeremiah 29:10, the prophet foretold the length of Israel’s captivity in Babylon.  That says, “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” On the one hand, this emphasized how serious the sin of Israel was. They would not be saved after a few years, as they expected. On the other hand, it showed God’s grace. For He promised to not forget them, but to save them in the end.

So, Psalm 137:1-4 does not expressly speak of rejoicing and being thankful to God in our sufferings, but other scriptures do tell us this. 

* Romans 5:3-5, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

* 1 Peter 1:6-7, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 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.”

Is it possible for us to rejoice while we are going through a period of God’s chastening?  Yes, it is, when we understand that the discipline of God is an exhibition of His love towards us.  Proverbs 3:11-12 tells us, “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”  When we find ourselves under the discipling hand of God, we can rejoice for the Lord is at work to draw us back to Himself and that “afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12:11).  (397.2)