Monday, May 17, 2010

Consider it all joy

Doesn't it seem like joy is a very abstract concept? It is such a beautiful word, and there are so many nice things written about it, but... how about practicality?

So many songs about joy are upbeat and just make you want to clap your hands and stamp your feet, but is that because you really FEEL joy or because the songwriter did a good job with the tune? And that brings me to the joy something you FEEL or DO or what?

For lack of a unified statement, I have here a collection of thoughts.

Joy in Children

Christ directs us to be like children (Matthew 18:1-4), so when tackling any sort of perplexing topic, why not simplify it by studying a child's reaction? read more/-

Joy in a child is momentary, based on an event. He has received a present; seen his favorite person; discovered something new. He is able to put aside other things and delight in this one thing. It is unplanned and it is temporary. But at the same time it is simple and the child does not analyze why he had this particular feeling. He just enjoys the moment and then continues with life.

The Emotions of Joy

How do you know when someone is joyful? You may see smiles or a twinkle in one's eyes; hear cheerful chatter; notice other signs of enthusiasm. Meanwhile, another person might be calm where he was previously anxious.

But what if you do not feel anything? Or what if there are no outward signs? Can it still be joy?

Evaluating our Joy Level

The Bible tells us in many places to rejoice and be glad. Therefore we take it on as our Christian "duty." I am going to be joyful, we tell ourselves. But how do we evaluate our "progress"? Did I rejoice today? Shall I keep a "Joyful" journal, right next to the list of "Good Deeds" and other things we like to keep track of to make ourselves feel better?

It seems to me that joy is something that other people should see in us, just like humility. If we are focused on serving Christ and others, we will be joyful, but we will not notice. We will not be able to boast if the joy displayed in our lives is pure.

There has to be a Reason

You will have a hard time finding a place in the Bible that mentions joy without giving the source of that joy. There is almost always some event or truth that is referred to. 

 Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. Lev. 9:24

-Why did they rejoice? Because the Lord accepted their offering.

Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. Deut. 28:47, 48

-Why were they supposed to rejoice? Because the Lord had blessed them with prosperity.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:16-18

-Hmmm, this one is a little harder. It is possible to pray continually, and there is always something for which I can be thankful...but, joyful? Is it enough to imagine His voice saying "Be joyful, My child"?

A Fruit of the Holy Spirit

If joy is something that comes from the Holy Spirit, then it is not something we can manufacture. (See "Evaluation") It is a natural result of submitting to the Lord. So while we are commanded to be joyful, at the same time, there is no way we can force it to come about.

Joy and Eternity

I remember reading a story about Elisabeth Elliot after her husband's Jim death, waking up to realize once more that he was not in the bed beside her. She felt the grief all over again, but at the same time was overcome with thankfulness and wonder that he had died for God's glory and was now with Him in heaven.

The hope of eternity-that is a source of joy.

The Opposite of Grief?

You have turned my wailing into dancing. (Ps. 30:11)

...A time to weep and a time to laugh... (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Is it really possible to rejoice ALL the time? Is joy something that can be within us even when we don't feel it? Is it possible to rejoice in the midst of grief?

Job managed to praise the Lord during his suffering (13:15). But would you call his determination joy or simply an attitude of faith and trust in the Lord?

Maybe joy comes from knowing that we are allowed to grieve. Sometimes it is such a relief to turn to the Lord or even a friend and pour out our pain. The pain is still there and it hurts, but just knowing that we are not alone is the beginning of hope and relief.

A Way of Life

How is it possible to be joyful in ALL circumstances? We have to have a reason to rejoice. Therefore, we have to practice thankfulness during the good times, so that when the hard times come, we can say, here is what God has done for me and here is what He will do for me. And He will use what I'm experiencing in the present to accomplish it all.


  1. In Ps 16:11 it says - "You will make known to me the path of life; in Your Presence is fullness of joy, in Your right hand are pleasures forever." So, I think another key to joy is learning to enter and rest in His Presence - whether it's through praise, worship, prayer, or whatever "practice of His Presence" we find that helps us enter that place of resting in Him which is not a function of the circumstances, but rather a function of our relationship. Interesting that you posted this blog - I was reading in Bill Johnson's book Face to Face about this very topic this morning.

  2. Maybe that's what I was getting at with the last thought, about remembering what God has done. What I left out was that it is not only what God has done, but WHO He is that can also be a source of joy. Thanks for pointing that out.


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