Recently, I’ve had several friends ask me to pray that God would bring joy into their lives daily, particularly through their trials. Or through the trials of their loved ones. Let’s face it, in today’s world, we are bombarded, surrounded, inundated, and overwhelmed with gloom and doom. One must almost unplug from the world to get some relief, it seems.
I can absolutely relate to that. There is so much in this world that can steal our joy. For me, it’s all of the above and the trials of grieving through Dale’s death. Some days it feels as though joy has taken a holiday somewhere besides my house, or this world.
So, I thought this would be an appropriate topic for today’s post. Consequently, as I often do, I started some research to see what certain writers and pastors had to say about this topic. I’m not looking for any pat answers; I want to see what theologians that I trust say. And then apply that to my life and hopefully to yours.
Much of what I read was not new and just confirmed what I’ve believed about joy for years now. And one concept I believed is that happiness is a much more “secular” goal – who doesn’t want to be happy? Many of the graduation snippets I’ve heard lately feature speakers who are trying to guide the new graduates in their quest for happiness. Contrast that temporary feeling with the deep, abiding concept of joy – a feeling that we can abide in, no matter what our circumstances. Spiritually, I’d say that this type of joy, in its purest sense, can best be supplied by God.
You can imagine my surprise when I came upon a radio interview with Randy Alcorn a few years go where he turns this whole concept of happiness being secular and joy being spiritual on its head! Others like Pastor John Piper, Pastor Charles Spurgeon and Joni Eareckson Tada seemed to share this same conviction with Randy.
My church teaches that when we have a framework/scripture collision, scripture must win out. In other words, if what I’ve believed about something does not match up with what I now clearly see in scripture, guess what needs to change? Certainly not God’s Word! I have to adjust my thinking.
That’s exactly what I’ve just done in the past hour or so. The premise of this radio interview was that the words joy and happiness in all the various Hebrew and Greek transcripts are essentially INTERCHANGEABLE. They are synonyms for each other again and again and again in both the Old and New Testaments, along with words like gladness and contentment.
So, whether you buy into that thought at this point or not, stay with me as I take a look into some other nuggets of truth from God’s Word on this topic of joy:
God’s Word commands us to be joyful. Many times! Yikes! That feels pretty impossible, right? If we’re just trying to muster up this joyful feeling, no wonder that’s not working for us, at least not long-term. We can’t do it! So, if we stop there, it’s no wonder that we are frustrated and feel like attaining joy is an impossible task.
What compromises our joy? Is it the circumstances surrounding us? Our job, our mental and physical health, our relationships, our finances, losses in our lives? Yep, I must confess – for me those areas often dictate how joyful, or happy I feel.
Let me suggest that we can still find joy and happiness in most of those areas I listed above. And I believe it is right to do so. When things are going well, rejoice! But wouldn’t we love to land where Paul did, as he states in his letter to the Philippians? “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Phil. 4:11
How do we get there? Psalm 37:4 gives us one answer: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” As believers, it’s as simple and as complicated as that. If we start to switch our focus to the character of God and all that He has done for us through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus on the cross, our “momentary troubles” can start to shrink in comparison.
Specifically, can we rest and find joy knowing that God is sovereign over all things? Does this give us peace? If so, camp out there for a while!
Do we find God’s Spirit speaking as we read His Word or go to Him in prayer? Is fellowship with Him sweet? If so, savor that – rinse and repeat!
Do we value Christ above all else? Honestly, that’s a tough one, isn’t it? We want to say we do, and hope that we can eventually achieve that, but many of the things of this world can leap frog over Christ and His supremacy.
Let me share a recent lesson I learned. If you’ve read earlier posts, you know that I had to put my sweet dog, Missy, to sleep a few weeks ago. About a week ago, my other dog, Daisy, got violently ill with vomiting, resulting in another trip to the emergency vet over the weekend. She ended up staying there from Sunday until this past Wednesday morning as they treated her for pancreatitis and gastroenteritis, along with severe dehydration. She was seriously one sick puppy.
I came home to so much quiet – no Dale, no Missy and no Daisy. Through my tears, I pleaded with God to not take my Daisy. Surely, He would not do that after I’ve lost so much this year. Gratefully, He did NOT take Daisy and I’m happy (and joyful 😊) to report that she is home and very much on the mend.
But it caused me to think about what my response would have been if God had, in fact, chosen to take Daisy as well. I seriously told people that I would just be done… But would I? What would the proper response be to another loss like that? What would God be teaching me? We really can’t know the mind of God; however, I did have to honestly ask myself, could it be that I cherish things of this world (my husband, my pets) MORE than God Himself? Might that be His lesson? Yikes again…
It was a good reminder to me and maybe for you that our greatest joy and happiness lie in our relationship with Jesus Christ, and in trusting in the supremacy of God’s sovereignty.
This sounds pretty sweet, right? So, getting back to an earlier question: why do we still find it so difficult? I ask myself often, “Am I trying to do this in my own strength?” And almost as often, the answer is, “Yes!” If God commands us to be joyful and to delight ourselves in Him, then, through His Holy Spirit, He can surely supply it for us, if we allow Him to work that out in our lives.
Even knowing this doesn’t necessarily mean we master it perfectly. But we need to put aside our strong desire to fix everything ourselves, in our own lives and in the lives of our loved ones. And meditate on the scriptural fact that God’s Holy Spirit in us can accomplish all things, even giving us JOY in the midst of trials. Or in the midst of our own self-improvement project. Let Him be God and let Him sanctify you with the joy He so wants you to experience.
Book after book have been written on the subject of joy, and innumerable sermons preached on the topic, so this humble little blog post can’t possibly even scratch the surface of all that God’s Word says about joy and happiness.
So, go to God’s Word and search for scriptures related to this subject and then just let those truths wash over you and give you hope. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and have never been able to find lasting joy in anything you’ve pursued, maybe now is the time to hear God’s voice calling you.
Let me leave you with one scripture text that beautifully summarizes much of what I hope and pray this post has challenged you with.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13