Joy, is clearly a rare condition in our world today. Few people even feel happy, much less joyful. When we focus on the present state of our world it seems impossible to “feel” joyful. Yet, God’s word tells us about many believers who experienced joy in the midst of austere conditions. So how can we, today, experience and hold onto joy when we aren’t necessarily “feeling” the emotion?
First, we need to recognize that joy is not just an emotion. Biblically speaking, joy is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and fruit is the result of something living and growing. Fruit doesn’t come from seeds or thoughts. Fruit, even natural fruit is a product of growth. So, if we are to produce this fruit and walk in joy then we may need to cultivate some behaviors and attitudes that will help this fruit come into fruition.
The book of Nehemiah gives us a clue about cultivating joy. The children of Israel had been in bondage to Babylon for seventy years. Toward the end of their captivity a remnant was granted leave to return to their homeland to rebuild their temple that had been destroyed. The first leader, Zerubbabel lead a group of men to rebuild the physical building of the temple. Then about sixty years later Ezra the scribe joined with Nehemiah to teach the people the law of God, (you might call this “a rebuilding of hearts”). Ezra and the priests spent seven days teaching the law and the remnant repented of their sins. Their repentance was so genuine that the people literally wept as they heard the word of God. At the end of this event, Nehemiah spoke these famous words; “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Two very distinct lessons can be gleaned from this record. First, the people listened attentively to the word of God as it was taught to the end they understood and believed it. They didn’t play church as is evidenced by their deep repentance and weeping. Second, they chose to be joyful because they recognized God was their strength – even in their repentant state. Their joy became so abundant and full that they were eager to give to others in need.
Now let’s compare this to our opportunity for joy today.
- Jesus said we are children of God, and no one can snatch us away from Him (John 10:28–29).
- We have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade,” (1 Peter 1:4; Matthew 6:20).
- In Christ, we are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).
- It is our Christian duty to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16).
- Joy was the one fruit that gave Jesus the resolve to endure the cross (Heb. 12:1-3).
Like the children of Israel, we can either read these scriptures and dozens more like them and weep for our failures; or we can choose to have joy and rejoicing knowing that our brother Jesus and our Father God love us unconditionally. It is from this position of faith that we can face any adversity in life and choose to walk in joy.
Jesus called this kind of living “abiding”. As we abide in Christ, the True Vine, we, the branches, are full of His strength and vitality, and the fruit we produce, including joy, come directly from him (John 15:5). The joy of the Lord may be inexplicable to those who do not possess it. But, for the believer in Christ, the joy of the Lord comes as naturally as grapes growing on a vine.
God doesn’t want us to put on a facade of happiness. He does however ask that amidst this broken world we would turn our faces, sometimes with tears in our eyes, upon Him and His Son, so we can say once again, “I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all affliction” (2 Corinthians 7:4).
So, in the days ahead, let’s make the choice to fill our hearts with joy inextinguishable and radiating with the hope of paradise promised. As we do, we will become a beacon of light for those suffering souls who are lost and without hope. This we can do, so long as we remember that God’s grace is the strength of our salvation. When we live joyously, we too can say like the Apostle Paul, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
Let’s keep our heart in His word, our hand in his hand, and our eyes fixed on his glorious appearing; then we will have something far more precious than happiness to share with those in need!
Love in Christ,