The dictionary tells us that joy is “a vivid emotion of pleasure; extreme gladness; a thing that causes joy.” If we try to understand joy from a worldly perspective, we might characterize it as a transient and fleeting emotion that waxes and wanes as we pass from one experience to another. The worldly view of joy then is one based on how we feel. So when God commands us to be full of Joy is He telling us we need to be happy all the time?
What a challenge that would be. If joy were an emotion that comes and goes based upon our circumstances then that command would seem rather harsh and unrealistic. On the other hand, we know that God often commands us to do things we could never do on our own. For example, 1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” That has to be near the top of the list of things we are unable to do on our own and yet God commands us to be holy.
Obviously God commands us to do things that we can only do in and through Him. Holiness, joy, and so on, can only be realized in Him. So joy is both an outcome of our relationship with Him and our source of strength for obedience to Him.
God has certainly done His part. 1 John 1:4 tells us, “He has given us his Word. These things we write to you that your joy may be full.”
In Psalm 16:11 David says of God, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
But how do you reconcile what God tells us about Joy and what we actually experience in our day-to-day lives? Let’s face it, when the car won’t start and the kids are late for school, joy is not readily bubbling to the surface. But even in those times we can have joy.
James 1:2-8 (NCV) says, “My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need. But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you. But when you ask God, you must believe and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown up and down by the wind. Such doubters are thinking two different things at the same time, and they cannot decide about anything they do. They should not think they will receive anything from the Lord.”
Wow! What a mouthful! James says trials will come and when they do they will try our patience, but the good news is as we develop patience (the result of trials and troubles) we will be complete, having everything we need? Now that’s something to be joyful about!
Still unsure how you can have joy in the midst of the everyday circumstances of life? Let me give you an example from the prophet Habakkuk.
Habakkuk was a prophet during a very difficult time in Israel’s history. Their legal system had collapsed, the poor were being oppressed by the government, the countries surrounding them were at war, and Habakkuk was totally overwhelmed by the circumstances he saw around him.
Remember, Habakkuk was God’s man. He had pleaded with God and sought direction for the nation and yet it seemed as if nothing was going right. Habakkuk ultimately decided that God must have withdrawn Himself from the people.
But God had not abandoned His people. God tells Habakkuk that He has a plan and that His plan will soon be revealed.
Here was Habakkuk’s response to God’s promise in Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT):
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.”
The lesson here is simple. The difference between the person who is defeated and the person who is victorious is one of attitude.
If Habakkuk were here today he might say something like this. “Though there is no food in the refrigerator, and there is no money in the checking account, though the sickness gets worse, and the pain persist, though my children are on drugs, and my spouse does not appreciate me, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
What Habakkuk is saying to us is that regardless of your circumstances, you can have joy!
Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that, “… the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
There’s no question about it. Life comes at us a hundred miles an hour, but in the midst of it all we can have joy. Joy has nothing to do with whether or not we are happy with our circumstances. Joy has everything to do with our relationship with Jesus. Our relationship with Him is the basis for joy whether we feel happy or not, whether circumstances are good or bad, whether we are on our way up the mountain or tumbling down. Regardless of what is happening in our life we can have joy.
Remember Psalms 16:11? Where is Joy? It’s in His presence. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better place to be.
Have you lost your joy? Let us show you how to find it again. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fruitbearers Outreach Ministry