Is joy really possible in our lives? We know joy is possible when we look at a new born child. We know joy is possible when we get a promotion at work. We know joy is possible when we are celebrating. But is joy possible when you lose your job? Is joy possible when your car breaks down on the side of the road?
Well, to answer that question, we have to know what joy is. One way of defining a word is to say what it is not. Joy is not happiness. Happiness is the feeling we get when things are going well outwardly. I am happy when the car is running well, when the job is going well, when my family is going well. But as soon as that car breaks down, the happiness is gone.
Most people in our society are chasing after the desire to be happy. They are surrounding themselves with material goods and relationships that they hope will make them happy. And they do make them happy, until the relationship goes bad or the new gadget breaks down. Happiness is temporary, it is fleeting, and it is dependent upon everything going well outwardly.
Joy on the other hand depends not on things going well outwardly, but on things going well inwardly. Joy is an inner disposition, an inner peace, an inner confidence that God loves us, that God cares for us, and that no matter what happens in life, God will never abandon us.
Joy is the conviction that no matter how big our problems are, God is bigger, and no matter how bad this world might be, God is good, and it is the conviction that when we can’t understand what is going on in our lives or in this world, that God understands, that God is in control, and that God will bring good from it.
Joy is not dependent upon the outward circumstances of our life, it is dependent upon the presence of Christ inside of our life.
If that is what joy is, then is joy really possible in our lives? Can we really have this inner peace, this inner confidence, this source of joy in our hearts and souls even when life is hard and difficult?
Well, the Bible gives us a really interesting answer to this question. The Scriptures tell us not only that joy is possible in the midst of sorrow, the Scriptures tell us oftentimes joy only comes after sorrow. Consider these verses:
Psalm 30:5 weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 126:5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
John 16:20 You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy,
John 16:22 Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
The picture of joy that emerges from the scriptures is that of a complex dance between two partners. One takes center stage for a while the other one moves into the background. And then the other one emerges into the limelight while the partner dances away. Neither are off stage at any time during the performance, and both are needed for the beautiful ballet of life to be performed.
So it is with pain and joy in our lives. We tend to expect a painless joy. Laughter without tears. Ease without work. Healing without sickness. We want an easy life in which we never face pain or rejection or troubles or hardship. And what happens is that we end up disappointed with God because he promised us joy and we didn’t get it. The problem though is that we have confused happiness with joy. Happiness is a life without pain. Joy is a life of confidence, peace, and strength in the midst of pain.
So how do we grow this part of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives?
Remind yourself… that your troubles and problems and sorrows are not the means of destroying your joy, but of creating your joy. It is through our sorrow that we learn what true joy is. So realize that whatever you are going through, God can redeem.
Ask yourself… if there is any sin in your life that is robbing you of your joy. There are problems and sorrows that come into our lives simply because we live in a sinful world. But there are also problems and sorrows that come into our lives because we sin. Because we live selfishly. Because we strive for things that we think will make us happy, but in the end only disappoint us. Ask God if there is anything you need forgiveness for, ask him if there is anything he needs to cleanse or purge from your life in order to have joy.
And finally… seek to bring joy into another life. God brings us joy so that we can share it with others. The pain that we have endured, the life experiences we have gone through, God wants us to use to help others. And one of the best ways to redeem our pain, to put our present circumstances into proper perspective is to minister to others. It helps get our eyes off of ourselves, and on Christ.
And it helps us take part in the dance God is inviting the other person into, where God takes center stage.