It’s hard to write this morning. My heart is heavy, my soul is aching. In the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown, it seems ill-timed to write about joy. While I do not have any children of my own, the senselessness and the pain of this tragedy rocks me to my core. I do not have the words to offer that would bring any comfort or even soothe the smallest part of our grief.
But to not write this as I had planned, to write of joy, would be to fly in the face of everything I have been teaching over the last few weeks. Because we are talking about joy, not happiness.
Happiness is influenced by the world around us, by our current situation, our wants and our needs. Happiness can be destroyed easily because it is manmade. Joy however is different. Joy springs internally, it comes from the very source of our life, our Creator. Joy comes from God. One of the cornerstones of Christian joy is that it survives tragedy, survives emotions and situations. Because God is everlasting, so is our joy. But that does not mean we will not feel grief, indeed because of our joy, grief feels so much sharper in comparison.
It is in these times, when the grief of the world lays heavy on our hearts, that we must look to our joy, must build it, strengthen it. Here are some ways that we can tend to the joy in our souls. I am not going into a full detail from Wednesday nights message, just some scriptures and a few comments about each one.
1. Recognize God as Joyful
“The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”
God takes great pleasure in you, to the point that He bursts into joyous song when He thinks about you! God is not a distant judge wagging a finger at you and waiting for you to mess up. Rather He is a joyous Father, waiting to greet you and erupt with joy when you come into His presence!
2. Celebrate God’s Attributes in Worship
“Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.”
Joy is one of the many attributes of God. So why when we worship Him do we so often look like we are being asked to eat soap? Worship should be an extension and celebration of the joy of the Lord! Dance, jump, spin, shout, lift your hands!
3. Make a Commitment to Others
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
Joy is not only directed vertically (to and from God), but horizontally (person to person), as well. Make a committment to rejoice with each other! Joy is contagious, share in the joy of those around you! And don’t forget the second part of this verse, share in the grief of others as well. Life is not all sunshine, but by sharing both joy and grief, we build each other up.
4. Ignite a Passion for Evangelism
“and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”
Want to see joy? Share your faith, see the joy of someone coming from darkness into light. The burdens of life falling from their shoulders. The angels in heaven rejoice when one who is lost is found, and we should too. In fact according to Philemon by sharing our faith, we come into a fullness of understanding about Christ and all He has done.
5. Stay Close to Jesus
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
In order to find joy, we don’t need to search for it, rather we need to seek and stay close to the who Himself is joy. If you want a joy that is complete, lacking nothing, stay close to Jesus.
Joy is what sets us apart from the world. We don’t have to be lost in a mad scramble for happiness in position, power or possessions. Instead we are secure in the everlasting joy of peace, love, and hope that comes through communion with our Savior.
Having trouble with your joy? Pursue Jesus, make Him first and everything else second. Your joy will be brought to overflowing and spread to others. Don’t have joy? Today, wherever you are, pray to God, make Jesus the Lord of your life, and get ready for a joy filled ride like no other.