I think we all know what it is like to be joyful. Our challenge, I suspect, is to keep that joy. Most of us tend to have our mood governed by our circumstances. If things are going well, if we are enjoying a measure of prosperity, we are joyful. If we’re experiencing conflict, or if we’ve suffered a loss, we lament our circumstances and our joy dissipates. In the day of trial, our response likely includes a mixture of anger, bitterness, depression, confusion, hopelessness, and fear. And, from where I stand, that’s normal.
And yet, I can’t help but notice that, as I survey the New Testament there is both a command to and a promise for abiding joy. In other words, something bigger than our circumstances in meant to govern our disposition. Yes, the Bible commands the follower of Jesus to be joyful. I love that. I love that God cares about my happiness on a profound level. That doesn’t mean that life as a follower of Jesus will be easy. I’ve found that quite the opposite is usually the case. In order to acquire an abiding joy that transcends my outward circumstances, God often allows me to endure some immensely challenging things. With a view of strengthening my faith in Him, God often arranges for my faith in His goodness to be tested and stretched.
Pain is never pleasant. I get that. But it seems that God uses our painful experiences to give us a more acute sense of His love, and to more distinctly mark us with His nature.
I don’t like suffering. Much of the time, I downright hate suffering. But I do find myself delighting in what suffering produces. It seems that the more I suffer, the more I detect God’s presence and His concern for me. This realization compels and sustains my joy.
I think we all want that. We want to be joyful, and we’re frustrated by our fleeting encounters with joy. The New Testament offers help in this regard. This morning I spoke on a text from James 1:2-4. Here, James offers an unusual exhortation:
Brothers and sisters, count it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.
How can this be possible? Have a listen to the message.
Here’s my best take on how you and I can keep our joy.