Everyone wants to feel as though they have joy in their lives. But sometimes it can feel a little elusive. Sure we have our moments that we feel pretty good, but overall there is no general contentment. We are never quite satisfied with how our lives are shaping up or things aren’t turning out to be quite as awesome as we expected. We worry about what will happen to us or others. We are anxious and even afraid about where our lives are headed or what is happening around us in the world. Sometimes our fear can be really paralysing and we desperately want to find a way to feel in control. But nothing we do helps. All we want is to find that peaceful feeling that can bring us some joy and ease.
Did you know that joy is mentioned at least 388 times in scripture? That includes all its variations including joyous, joyful, rejoice and etc.
The bible talks a lot more about joy than it does about happiness. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking they are the same thing, they are in fact quite different.
“Hap” means chance. It is the root of many different words. Happen, happening, haphazard, hapless, happenstance and happy. Happiness is actually a chance thing. Your circumstances dictate whether or not you feel happy. HAPpiness depends on what is HAPpening.
Joy however is different. Joy is not dependant on external events. Joy is inward. It is that peaceful calm you feel (regardless of your situation) when you know that God is present in your life. When you truly believe that all things will work out in the end because God loves you and will always look after you.
God actually commands us to be joyful. In Philippians 4:4 it says “Rejoice in the LORD alway and again I say rejoice!” The word rejoice here is a variant of the word rejoice. We are told we are always to be rejoicing in the LORD. It doesn’t say “whenever good things happen to you have joy” or “don’t worry, I know bad things happen and I don’t expect you to have joy in me at those times.” No. It says rejoice in God ALWAYS.
On the other hand God doesn’t expect us to be happy all the time. He knows we go through hard times in our lives where being happy is impossible. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 it says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”.
So if joy is a lasting thing then can we lose joy? Yes! Joy is the trust we have in God outworking His mighty purpose. We can lose that joy in several different ways.
- When we stop studying the bible. When we stop putting God’s word in us every day we can quickly lose sight of the very real and very active hand of God. Reading the bible helps us see how God worked with people in times of old. It teaches us about His love for us and it tells us how He will work in the world around us now.
- When we sin. Sin can drive a big wedge between us and God. When we do something really wrong we can feel so guilty that we try to push God away. We feel we don’t deserve God’s love so we remove Him from our lives. We limit God’s mercy.
- When things go really wrong in our lives. Now I know I said that joy isn’t circumstantial and it doesn’t have to be, but sadly on occasion it can relate to what is going on in our lives. When something really tough happens it can be easy to blame God for it. To think He’s punishing us for whatever reason. Or to get mad at Him for allowing something so awful to happen to you. When we do this once again we can push God out of our lives thinking we no longer appreciate His input and try to solve things yourself.
- When we allow this world to take over our hearts. It is just so easy to do this. When something really big and exciting comes up in your life how easy is it to get so caught up in it that you actually forget all about God? When I have a big project I’m working on I just want to devote all my waking hours to it. All of a sudden when the project is over I realise that I have neglected the important things in my life and without the project taking up my time I am actually left pretty empty.
Joy is largely composed of gratitude and trust. When we feel our joy lacking we have to step back from our immediate circumstances and see the bigger picture. We know what God has done for us. We know we can trust Him with the direction of our lives.
Despite things that may not make us feel very joyful we have something many people don’t that can bring us exceeding joy. We have a future hope. He has given us such precious promises that far excel anything this world has to offer. He is working with us in times of happiness and trials. Whatever is going on in our lives is happening for a reason. He is moulding us so we are fit for His Kingdom. This is a comforting fact which can bring us great joy no matter what.