There are plenty of good reasons in this world to be sad. And news events are a constant reminder. Our own struggles alone can be enough for unhappiness and depression. Even a sense of hopelessness. But in the midst of a broken world filled with dysfunction, tragedy and grief, Jesus calls us to his joy.
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:10-12 NIV
But for our joy to be complete, Jesus has to set a few things straight in our hearts.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Matthew 6:24-26 NIV
Most of us do the opposite of what Jesus teaches. It’s tempting to try to find our joy in this world’s version of success, and in the scripture above we see Jesus telling us that it doesn’t exist there. The “right circumstances” or level of success don’t really have anything to do with joy. The frame of heart and mind that leads to joy are counterintuitive to this world. And we’ll do well to learn Gods recipe for joy. And the lesson begins with humility.
“That is why Scripture says:’God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.'” James 4:6 NIV
James reminds us that if we hang on to pride, however subtle, we won’t know the joy we crave. The evil one is clever at tricking us into choosing pride over joy. This is why I call genuine joy a form of wisdom. You must have as much wisdom to move away from the pride and arrogance of this life as you do to move into the presence of God. And this wisdom is available for the asking.
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:23-25 NIV
We ask because we can’t arrange for joy or wisdom on our own. It’s too profound, too complex and spiritually discerned. But God is happy to grant joy to those who ask in faith and humility, regardless of the circumstances one finds themselves.
Even in the joy of God however, there will be times of sadness, even deep sorrow. I know, it sounds like a contradiction. But I’ve learned that grieving before God is closer to real joy than any form of happiness or thrill apart from God. I love the way it’s worded in the Gospel of John;
“Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” John 16:19-21 NIV
But why does joy so easily elude us? I believe it’s because in our culture, we seek happiness, not wisdom. Yet there is a far greater emphasis on seeking wisdom throughout the Old and New Testaments than there is joy. Why? Because Godly wisdom leads to joy, joy doesn’t lead to wisdom. The wisdom of God is the prize to seek. And Jesus is the personification of God’s wisdom.
I’m not talking about knowledge necessarily. Though wisdom includes knowledge. The mere piling up of information or even memorizing scripture doesn’t always lead to wisdom. “Knowledge puffs up” as the Word says.
Wisdom is different, it perfects the very position of the heart, corrects our view of reality and equips us to discern right from wrong. And only God can set the heart in the direction of wisdom, and joy is just one of many benefits.
As God grants you wisdom, he may reveal some things in your life that are robbing you of a closer walk with him, thus causing you to lose your joy. We must be in his Word daily, bringing our heart and requests before him often and living a clean life. And the grace of God empowers us to do just that.
When the wisdom of God fills our spirit, the tricks of the evil one don’t stick. The lies he throws at us are easily discerned as false, and we don’t easily fall. And when we do fall, we get up and don’t lose hope. More importantly; we find ourselves focused on the things of God as we share in his joy. Life is fun again, our work has purpose and we’re just grateful God has given us another day. We love those around us, even those who are tough to love because our hearts are full and we have much to give. This is the joy of God.
“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” Acts 2:27-29 NIV