You would be forgiven for thinking that we live in a world where joy is hard to find. Injustice and inequalities are prevalent around us. Anxiety and depression have reached epidemic levels. And everything is expensive, all of the time. (An encouraging and upbeat way to start a blog.)
But I start here for a reason: to draw our attention, as Christians, to a challenging tension found all over Scripture. Even when times are tough, we are called to be a people of joy. What on earth does that mean?
“Rejoice in the Lord, always”, says Philippians 4:4. Joy is a fruit of God’s Holy Spirit, says Galatians 5:22. Let us rejoice and be glad in the day the Lord has made, says Psalm 118 (NKJV). There is evidence all over the Bible that joy should be a defining trait of a Jesus follower. It sounds good, but it can feel like a tough ask.
Whether you have joy or whether you feel like your joy has been stolen from you, here are three reflective thoughts to help you find and share true joy again in the midst of a difficult world.
We Must Relearn What Joy Is (And What It Is Not)
To find joy in our often-tricky lives, we need to know what we are looking for. The words of Jesus are a good place to start.
In John 15, Jesus says this: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11
Here, Jesus explicitly tells us what joy is and how to experience it. As Christians, it is surely our desire that Jesus’ joy is in us and that our joy may be complete. While there’s a lot we could go into on this subject, a few thoughts stand out:
Joy Is Knowing You Are Loved
Joy comes from knowing that we are Christ’s and that He loves us. The good news of the Gospel message is the unchangeable basis for our joy. As the Father loved Jesus, so He has loved you. You are His beloved child and nothing on this planet can change that. Take heart, for He has overcome the world. This security is the foundation of your joy.
Joy Is Living In The Presence Of God
Spending time with Jesus is a fast-track to His joy. As we keep His commands, following in His footsteps, we remain in His love. As we live our lives in His presence, we can experience the supernatural joy that He has to offer – a joy which transcends our understanding.
Joy is found in God’s presence, not in our circumstances. As we grow closer to Him, we will experience that gift for ourselves.
Joy Is Not ‘Pretending’ To Be Happy
The words of Christ above also help us to discern what true joy isn’t. As a Christian, you don’t have to pretend that things are awesome, all of the time. That’s just not real or honest.
Joy is not a superficial emotion that we use to try and deny the reality of our lives. Rather, it is birthed in a deep realisation that we are children of God and that our chaotic lives are tightly held in the hands of a loving Savior whom we can trust.
To find joy as a Christian, you need to draw close to the One that loves you deeply. The closer you are to Christ, the more joy there is to be found. Draw near today.
Jesus’ Definition Of Joy Can Reframe Our Circumstances
If joy is living in Christ and following His way, then we can find that joy anywhere. Jesus spoke the words we are looking at in John 15 the night before He went to the cross. I can’t imagine Jesus was feeling particularly ‘happy’ about the pain that was ahead of Him, but nonetheless He was able to demonstrate resilient joy because He knew what real joy looked like.
Joy is found in putting our worldly circumstances into a wider eternal perspective. Jesus found joy in doing God’s will and knowing that He was being obedient to His heavenly Father. And just as Jesus had great joy in obeying His Father even in the midst of opposition, so can we find joy in our own challenging circumstances as we listen for God’s voice and follow His commands.
We must reframe our circumstances in the light of who Jesus is. Romans 12:12 tells us to “be joyful in hope”. If your circumstances don’t give you any immediate reason for joy, then know that, in Christ, you have another direction to look: forward. You have a hope for the future.
Once we understand Jesus’ definition of joy, we are then able to start turning the tables on our circumstances. Even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we can take comfort, because our God is with us.
Choose joy today, no matter what you are facing. Christ is with you.
We Must Reclaim The Joy That Is Ours In Christ Jesus
If Christ’s joy is in us, and God’s presence is the unwavering foundation for our joy, then we cannot let the enemy steal our joy from us. It’s not his to take. As Christians, it is time to shine Christ’s light into this dark world by boldly reclaiming the joy that is ours in Jesus. Remember the powerful words of Nehemiah 8:10: “The joy of the Lord is your strength”.
If you are struggling for joy at the moment, there’s a few things you can do to help you reclaim it in your life:
• reach out to a friend and ask for help. We can more easily discover it in community as we encourage each other.
• don’t walk through hard times by yourself. Intentionally seek out time with Jesus. Listen to a meditation on Glorify.
• do a study on joy. If Christ is the source of joy, then His word is the bright arrow that points us to Him.
• finally, make a decision to actively seek out and choose joy. Find an activity that energises you. Celebrate the little things in life. Be grateful for what you do have.
I pray that you would find God’s supernatural joy today in whatever you are facing.