With all the things that are happening in this world, how do we keep our joy? In the midst of grief, how do we rejoice?
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” ~1 Peter 1:6-9
I can remember when I was dating, I went through a phase where I dated, roughly, 50 or so women in about a year. One could say that I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I wanted happiness, much like everyone else that was single. Happiness was my goal, but there’s a difference between happiness and joy.
In reading the above scripture, I’ve been amazed as well as bewildered as to how the first century disciples / apostles could “rejoice” and be joyful in the midst of their circumstances. How can they, after being ostracized from their community for following Jesus and facing much physical persecution could they find joy and rejoice in God / Jesus when their world was falling down around them. For me, in reading these passages when I was a young Christian, it always made me a little…mad as well as bewildered. “Am I supposed to walk around with a dumb smile on my face when I’m doing through crap!” was my question to God? As I have grown wiser through the Word and through the Holy Spirit, I understand how I can find joy in the middle of anything. Here’s how.
THE THREE THINGS WE CAN DO TO STAY IN JOY
- There is a difference between happiness and joy.
Happiness comes and goes sometimes as often as waves hitting the shore. Happiness isn’t something you can cling to when you’ve lost a loved one or are facing bankruptcy. Joy, on the other hand can stay with you for the long haul. The reason? Real joy is from God. For the believer, it is like a bottomless well of water—always an abundant supply. Even in the darkest days, when sadness, grief, and loss may threaten to overwhelm you, God’s joy is there.
In the Old Testament, there is a story of Leah and Rachel having, what could be considered a contest, for the affection of their husband Jacob. Rachel could not have children for a considerable amount of time, but her sister Leah could. Rachel was Jacob’s first choice and poor Leah was the “consolation prize”. Through many years, Leah had child after child while Rachel watched. It came to a point where the handmaidens got involved. Both Leah and Rachel were chasing after happiness, not joy. Their happiness was based on an external condition, the happiness and approval of their husband Jacob. True joy is not dependant on external circumstances.
- God’s joy cannot be taken away from you like happiness can. It is always there.
True joy, unlike happiness, is a gift from God, a gift that comes from the Holy Spirit. Once a person is saved through Jesus Christ, and only Him, the Holy Spirit lives inside. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22-23). Only a saved person can experience true joy, the rest of those poor souls who will not be reconciled to God through Jesus, are chasing after happiness and they will always go through highs and lows based on their life’s circumstances. Consider the passages below:
“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” ~John 15:11
“And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” ~Acts 13:52
- Make a choice to accept joy! Stop complaining and take the gift (the fruit) that has been given to you.
Each and every saved person needs to consciously accept the gift of joy. It’s on the inside, waiting to be taken from the true vine living inside of us through the Holy Spirit. We need to stop being a cry-baby, a Mr. / Ms. Whiny Butt and drop the identity of grief and sadness and partake in that abundant life that Jesus promised (John 10:10). Sometimes, our identity can be shaped by the circumstances of life. From those circumstances comes our state of being. From that state of being, the identity of grief, sadness, despair, etc, can be perceived as our true self. One of the ways that we can cast off this false sense of identity is to make a conscious choice to accept joy in our everyday life. Become imitators of the past disciples, present disciples and, most importantly, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). When we imitate, we begin to spark that Spirit living on the inside of us and joy will follow. Consider the passages below:
“that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord,” ~2 Corinthians 8:2-3
“You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” ~1 Thessalonians 1:6
“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” ~Hebrews 12:2