Have you ever taken the time to really think about joy? I had never thought about it until I was filled with so much joy yesterday, I was forced to sit down and think about what made my day so different. I wanted to dig deeper into a three-letter word that I had heard my whole life but never really understood. A series of short events in about 12 hours of time changed my outlook on the meaning of joy forever.
My parents laugh because I came out of the womb with a frown on my face. (there’s proof in the pictures). I wouldn’t say I was an unhappy child but I was a serious child, and I leave very little room for silliness still today. I admittedly envy the peppy, smiling, humorous, care free, adventurous one because that’s just not me most of the time. I am naturally more of a pessimist. While this trait may have saved me some broken bones, money, gas, or pain in the past, I sure have missed out on some fun things. For many years I’ve prayed Lord, give me joy, and I became frustrated when I felt like He was not answering this prayer. Lord, you say be joyful always (1 Thessalonians 5:16), you say the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10) so can you please give me some?!?
Yesterday morning I drug myself out of bed, sleepily brushed my teeth, gave my extra peppy, care free dog some attention, and headed out the door to work in a rush not giving much thought to what the day would bring. I first received a text from a friend that said the Lord is doing amazing things in her marriage. Yes!! Next, a coworker came in the office and said, “I’m pregnant” after she and her husband have been trying for many years. Praise God! And after a hard few days when the devil was finding pleasure in wedging his way in between my relationship with my husband, my husband sends me a text that said, would you like to skip the gym and go get a drink with me and sit in the sunshine and talk? In his six part study, Jesus and the Study of Joy by John Piper, He defines Christian joy as a “ good feeling in the soul produced by the Holy Spirit as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in Word and in the world. “ Yesterday I can’t say I was happy all day long. I wasn’t even expecting to receive this gift, BUT I was certainly overwhelmed with joy as I was able to experience the beauty, sovereignty, and sweetness of Christ.
About 5 years ago, joy for me looked like buying a new dress or going to get a pedicure with a girlfriend. Those things are great! But what I believe I got wrong was I didn’t really understand the definition of Christian joy. I confused this fruit of the spirit with temporary happiness or fulfillment. And because of my personality traits, I believed a lie that joy meant being happy all the time. That is just not the truth, friends. We are called to find joy even in suffering. That means joy even when we are NOT happy.
So you say Audrey, my marriage is suffering, how can I experience joy? My health is failing, how can I experience joy? I just lost my job, how can I experience joy?
- What I have learned is, it is ok to grieve, it is ok to be sad, and it is ok to be angry.
- But this is what I know. God does not change regardless of our feelings. He is still GOOD even in our suffering
“I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
“My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8
“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5
Piper sums it up so beautifully, “When we have little and have lost much, Christ comes and reveals himself as more valuable than what we have lost. And when we have much and are overflowing in abundance, Christ comes and he shows that he is far superior to everything we have.”
What I experienced yesterday was pure joy from the Lord. There is no doubt about that, but what is even sweeter is that God is bigger and better than all of those encounters. He is faithful. He is good. He loves us.
I have accepted that I may not always be happy. I am not the peppiest, smiley, humorous person. God made me serious, and I am learning to be ok with that. But I can be joyful always in any circumstance knowing God is sovereign and he is sweet and he is BIGGER than myself in my joys and my sufferings.
For more on John Piper’s Study on Joy click here