The last two weeks have been difficult. Within this time period, my family and I have faced pregnancy loss, an uncle’s surgery for quick-spreading aggressive cancer, and the unexpected death of a loved one. On a broader context, I am deeply concerned for the division and polarization of our country, grieved by the anger and violence displayed on both sides of the political fence. There also have been multiple deadlines at work. To top it off, the imbalance of hormones common to women my age has been toying with my ability to stay calm, cool, and collected as everything around me seems to be pressure-filled or falling apart.
It was in this environment that our staff devotions featured Scriptures on joy.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again—Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).
As the boss, I figured I shouldn’t roll my eyes at these passages, but I was doing it on the inside. I like these verses. They are feel-good words…when I’m feeling good. But when life is such a mess, they sound superficial and even seem to mock my current reality.
As I kept myself in check, the Lord clearly and ever so gently challenged my thinking.
You don’t need joy when things are going well. You need joy when life is hard, and I am always there to supply it.
I tend to be black and white in my thinking. I want things to be “either-or,” rather than “and.”
Alas, James 1:2-3 throws a monkey wrench in my preference for linear order.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Sorrow and joy are not mutually exclusive. The Lord intended joy to be an ever-present feature in the believer’s life. Even in the midst of trials, in chaos, and in the messiness of relationships.
I am thankful that it doesn’t say, “Be happy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” There are trials and pain in life, and I’m not going to be happy about them. I don’t have to paste on a smile and pretend that everything is beautiful. I can acknowledge the struggles, and that’s okay. My happiness is an emotion that changes with my circumstances.
However, as a follower of Jesus, joy is independent of my circumstances. Joy is based on my trust in the Lord, my confidence in His constancy that gives me security and well-being. It focuses on the hope and future anchored immovably in Christ.
Unfortunately, we will all encounter trouble. Jesus said we would in John 16:33. We will be moved by tragedy, but it will not define us.
Job lost everything dear to him—family, wealth, and health. He was devastated and praised the Lord from the depths of his soul.
Paul instructed us to “Rejoice in the Lord” while he was in prison.
Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb and then raised him from the dead.
Joy comes from the Holy Spirit, not from us. As we walk in the Spirit and allow Him to flow through our lives, we will experience joy. We will be able to rejoice in the Lord. Yes, always.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).
Heavenly Father, I come to you just as I am. You know what I face and what I am going through. Thank You for always walking with me and for giving me the strength I need for every situation. Help me to trust You, so that joy is a steadfast presence in my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.