Rediscovering the Gift of Joy
Everywhere we look during this season is a reminder that we should be filled with joy. Songs about joy flood the airwaves, sermons rich with themes of joy are preached, flashy storefronts glitter with joy, commercials encourage us to find joy. There are joy mugs, joy shirts, joy gift bags, joy greeting cards, joy books, joy doormats, joy decorations. So what do we do when the world is screaming out be joyful, yet we start asking where has my joy gone?
First, we have to recognize where joy comes from. Joy isn’t something we work towards. Jesus tells us in John 16:22 that NOTHING can rob us of our joy. Your joy isn’t lost, it might be hidden, but not lost. Once the Holy Spirit has entered our lives after salvation, and sealed us for heaven, the joy that only he can provide is always there. It’s a gift Jesus left behind for us. Part of the problem keep we keep cycling back to is the joy we experience here on earth is only a glimpse. The fullness of joy is found in the presence of God alone, it’s eternal. “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalms 16:11. Until then, we can find joy in the confidence and assurance of our heavenly promise.
Galatians 5:22, 1 Thessalonians 1:6 (Our joy is given to us by the Holy Spirit)
Even still, it’s not a question of if, but when things will enter our lives that try to distract us from our joy. Sin, comparison, shame, complaining, worry, doubt, misplaced trust, idolizing worldly things are a just brief list. Identifying those things are an important start. Yet, I would argue that knowing these things we do aren’t always rooted in a joy-stealing desire, but sometimes even our good intentions can divert us away from joy. Allowing ourselves grace in this area, can help us refocus our mind to seek out the joy of a content life in Christ.
Joy looks different for everyone. That is a hard concept for me. I want a formula. One that shows how to show joy like the person who makes you feel like the most important person amongst a crowd, or the person whose smile is joy personified spreading like wildflowers, or the person whose conversational words fill us with joy despite a tough situation. As you read this list I’m sure there are people in your life that come to mind. Aspiring to be like them isn’t inherently a bad thing, but there isn’t an exact formula for being the most joyful because we are all different. Our personalities and experiences make our expression of joy unique. Some of us have a lower baseline of joy. We have to constantly go back to the source of joy to be immersed in it. From experience I can say that things like depression deadens joy, and can taunt us as a life-long stigma, but it is in this constant need of Jesus to revive my joy that I’ve found the deepest delights in him. “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.” 1 Peter 1:6
And it’s usually the sorrows of life that usher in the joy that is so deeply rooted, that it becomes the inner you. Joy and sorrow usually have to walk hand in hand. From an outsiders perspective, there is no logic to this, but that is because it is born of belief in things unseen. 1 Peter 1:9 “ You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious inexpressible joy.”
Sorrow teaches us what is important. It reminds us to find gratitude in the smallest things. It forces us to be content with a life that might be filled with brokenness. Joy in the Lord gives us strength to persevere.
When Jesus peached to his disciples about his death, he knew that they would experience great sorrow and grief. Jesus doesn’t deny the existence of painful experiences. His desire is that our faith will produce a joy that is so much a part of who we are that it starts from the inside and bursts out.
While our source for joy is the same, sometimes our outward expressions of it are unique. You don’t have to constantly smile the biggest smile, always be the most welcoming hostess, have the happiest children, tell the funniest jokes, or craft the perfect words, to have joy. When trials come, embrace the pain and then turn around and show the world your joy in the exact way that God made you to. So this is me SPRINTING away from what I think joy “should” look like and embracing what my joy is. At the top of my wish list this season is the gift of joy.
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13