Finding, and Living In, Non-Elusive Joy
Many of us don’t live with the kind of joy that we want to live with. Joy is misplaced and elusive in many of our lives.
I’ve been thinking more about this because I’ve begun writing a book about the New Testament book of Philippians. The tentative title for the book is either “Joy in Jesus” or “The Key to Joy,” which, frankly, is Jesus. And I’m thinking about joy, because it’s something that many of us struggle with and many of us would like to have more of in our lives.
One of the reasons that we don’t have more joy is because we attach conditions to joy and we make joy something that we will get some day, if something happens. We treat joy very, very subjectively, when in fact, if we understand what the gospel is about, joy is objective. Joy is something that we do have, if we believe the gospel–that Jesus died for our sins, was resurrected, ascended to be with the Father, and one day will come back to bring all of the saints into the fullness of the kingdom of God. That is a hope that we have that we can believe in and anchor ourselves to.
This promise is something that gives us joy. It’s not something that might give us joy. Whether or not we live by that perspective impacts whether we experience the fullness of that joy. But when we think about our everyday lives, some of us struggle with joy, because we attach conditions to join and we make it subjective. Some of us say things like, we will be joyful if things go our way. So if we get that promotion at work, or if we get the result that we want from a health test, or if there’s no family strife at the family event that we’re going to on the weekend, then we can be joyful because things went our way and we feel at peace.
Others of us say that we will be joyful if we have no hardship in our lives. So if we lose a job, or a family member gets sick, or there’s some kind of financial issue that comes up, and we experience hardship, then we struggle to find joy. Still others of us say that we will feel joyful if we feel successful and happy. So when things go our way, when a friend or a loved one brings us a gift or when we get a raise at work, then we can feel joy because we’ve attached joy to our feelings.
This is so subjective and dangerous for us to think about joy like this because when we look at joy this way, we’ll look at it as something we don’t have, but will have at some point in the future. So joy is always out there, something that we push towards, but never really take hold of. So we grasp for it. We yearn for it. We desire to have it but never really get a hold of it.
But Paul tells us that joy can be ours. In fact, it is ours in Christ. We just have to reorient ourselves around the joy that is available to us in Jesus. As Paul begins his letter to the Philippian believers, he writes that to them and says, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:4–6, NIV).
Paul writes to them with joy because of the certainty that he has that God has begun a good work in them and will finish this good work in them on the day of Jesus Christ, that is, on the day that Jesus returns to bring all of the saints into the fullness of the kingdom of God. And because of this, Paul rejoices, and he has joy.
This is the joy that’s available to us as well. We just have to take hold of it. It’s a joy that is objective. It’s a joy that we can experience. And it’s a joy that’s available to us now, in Jesus.
What’s stopping you from experiencing this joy? It’s a matter of transferring your understanding of joy away from the subjective feelings that you have, where joy is dependent on how you feel, and spending some time thinking about the promises that God has made to you. Let those promises become the things that you hold on to, believe in, and live according to. Don’t let the trouble of the world get you down. Instead be built up by God’s promises and live in the joy that’s available to you today in Jesus.
If you would like some help with this, please reach out to me.
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