Joy Restored

We have been discussing various hindrances to joy.  We discussed the way emotional pain from sorrow can disrupt our joy, and we gave some thoughts on dealing with depression and the various ways discouragement can affect our joy.  Then, we discussed the way physical pain and suffering can rob us of our joy, and we offered some suggestions for dealing with this in order to overcome it.

Throughout our lives, we will experience varying degrees of disruption to our joy from both sorrow and suffering.  These are a part of the human experience.  “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”

But the most common disruption to our joy will not be from depression or pain.  The most common disruption to our joy will come from our own sinful choices and behavior.  The pain of sin is the greatest interrupter of our joy. 

Pain and suffering piggybacked into our world on the sin of Adam. I do not say that God ever intended for our world to be a pain-free world.  Pain certainly serves a wise and good purpose.  But the suffering and sorrow we experience from pain is a direct result of sin. 

Continue reading “Joy Restored”

Joy in Pain

Physical pain quickly becomes all-consuming to us. We become preoccupied with it. At the moment, intense physical pain chases away all thoughts of joy. But chronic pain, which lasts for years instead of days, can strip away our hope for recovery and rob us of our joy. We might wonder what to do about joy in the face of such crippling pain. Thankfully, the Bible is not silent on this challenge. God gives us the image of Job scraping at his boils with a potsherd.

Some Christians believe the answer to debilitating pain is stoicism. I read about a lady who lost a baby and later testified that God’s grace had been so all-sufficient that she had not shed a tear. I find that troubling. Circumstances may require us to set a firm jaw and soldier on. Still, we should keep a firm handle on the difference between firm resolve and a calloused heart.

God made us physical as well as emotional creatures. We are body, soul, and spirit. At various times, we may experience pain in different body parts – head, neck, back, knees, or elsewhere. Because of the connection between body and soul and spirit, pain in one part of your self can lead to pain in another part. God didn’t make you a block of wood. Those pesky little nerve endings are a part of your whole self. It isn’t unheard of that chronic pain would lead to depression, which can, in turn, cause a loss of joy.  

Because we treasure the gift of joy, we should consider when physical pain affects our joy. For this reason, I want to consider a few things towards a Christian approach to physical pain, especially chronic pain.  I say these things in hopes that if you suffer this way, you will be encouraged to battle your pain in the interest of preserving your joy. I trust that you will find these things helpful towards recovering the joy you might be missing due to debilitating pain.

Continue reading “Joy in Pain”

Joy in Depression

Very few people – Christians included – spend much time thinking about whether or not they have joy.  We assume that it is there.  We feel happy from time-to-time, usually because of a special moment or event.  So long as “everything’s going my way,” we don’t concern ourselves much with joy.  We don’t necessarily feel a sense of joy or delight, but we are content enough with our lives and circumstances.  So, we don’t think about joy.  After all, how ironic would it be to worry about something like joy?

But then, things go sideways.  Something comes along – perhaps a tragedy or some challenge – that disrupts the easy-going joy that we have experienced as almost a default setting.  And then we do worry about it.  “I’m supposed to be full of joy: where is it?”  We feel down, discouraged, maybe even despair.  We know that we shouldn’t feel this way.  After all, we are Christians: the joy of the Lord is supposed to be our strength.  But something has happened.  Joy is gone. 

We don’t tend to be concerned about joy until it goes AWOL.  In the good times, we take it for granted.  But then God brings along a disruption to our joy – may be in the form of a trial, but more often by letting our spirit sink. When we are low in spirit, we feel our loss.  And because we haven’t paid much attention to joy, we find ourselves stuck in a rut. How do I get my joy back?  What is it, really?  Where did it go, and how do I find it?  What does joy look like when I am low in spirit? 

We are speaking here of the garden variety forms of what we call “depression.”  Sometimes it can show up in a mild case of the blues, sometimes it can be more severe than that.  When our spirits fall, we experience a loss of joy. 

Continue reading “Joy in Depression”

Sorrow Turned to Joy

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (John 16:20)

In John 16, Jesus has His disciples in the upper room, preparing them for His crucifixion.  He tells the disciples that very soon, they will be in mourning.  Pointing to this, Jesus makes a staggering promise: “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

How can sorrow be turned into joy?  The two seem perfectly contradictory, like a square circle or frozen fire.  Yet, Jesus made the promise: “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  Turn a toad into a prince, or a statue into a man, but how can sorrow be turned into joy?  The simple answer is, only by the power of God. 

Somehow, God’s recipe for joy includes sorrow.  I can’t say that I completely understand that.  In my mind, joy consists of the absence of sorrow.  Yet, God calls for our sorrows, tucks them into the cake batter, throws the mix into the oven, and brings forth a masterpiece of a cake.  There must be sorrow, or He could not turn it into joy.

Continue reading “Sorrow Turned to Joy”

What Does Fullness of Joy Look Like?

It can be hard to grasp what “fullness of joy” really means for us in a nuts and bolts, rubber meets the road kind of way.  If you have been following along in this series, you might understand the theory, but you might wonder, “When do I get to feel joy?  Does that ever happen?” If I give you a great recipe for chocolate chip cookies, what good is that if you never taste one?

We might struggle with understanding what this fullness of joy means on a practical level.

So I can describe what joy looks like in this life, I want to first consider what joy will look like in the life that is to come.  Here’s why: the joy we experience in eternity will be the fullest joy ever experienced.  We might have reason to doubt that we are experiencing “fullness” of joy in this life, but we know that we will experience it in heaven.  In this life, God continually elevates our joy to this ultimate experience of joy. By means of His providence – both pleasant providences and hard providences – God expands our capacity for joy and increases our experience of it until we reach eternity. 

Continue reading “What Does Fullness of Joy Look Like?”

Fullness of Joy Comes from Abiding in Christ

Jesus said what He said in His lifetime so His disciples would experience fullness of joy.  I do not consider that a stretch, like I am making too much of joy. In His intercessory prayer, Jesus prayed…

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13)

Jesus prayed that His joy would be fulfilled in us.  And He spoke so that His joy would be fulfilled in us. He wanted His disciples to experience “full” joy.

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)

This means that Scripture itself was written so that we could experience this “full joy.” God’s Word is saturated with the joy and blessing and delight of God.  Hopefully I have made that point sufficiently in previous posts so that I don’t need to repeat the Scripture proofs for it now.  God created us to be the objects of His joy and glory and to share in His joy and glory. God’s ultimate purpose for His creation is that they should share in His eternal joy in Himself – and this is the way God glorifies Himself.

Continue reading “Fullness of Joy Comes from Abiding in Christ”

Christ’s Joy Remaining in Me

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)

Christmas was a week ago, so by now you realize that you won’t be having that classic Hallmark Christmas this year either.  Christmas can be a very miserable time, especially if you are one who thinks that Christmas will solve all your problems. Too many believe the rot that Christmas has this mystical power of reconciling family members, healing diseases, and restoring happiness.

The popularity of Hallmark movies offers nearly irrefutable proof that we love to be sentimental.  We crave that perfect Christmas joy. But if we put too much stock in the trappings and the window dressings of Christmas, we set ourselves up for a big disappointment.  So, if you are experiencing the “Christmas blues” a week after Christmas is over, you might want to consider what I am saying.

Continue reading “Christ’s Joy Remaining in Me”

The Fullness of Christ’s Joy

Hebrews 1:8-9 tells us that God anointed Christ with the oil of gladness above His fellows.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

We can learn the character of Christ’s joy from this text. One thing we learn is the abundance of it — His joy is above His fellows — Jesus Christ has more joy than any other person.  “Jesus Christ is the happiest being in the universe.”[1]  Does that sound too trite to you?  If so, it is only the fault of our language and the way we use the word “happy.” To say that Jesus is the happiest being in the universe is anything but trite. More on that in a moment.

We also learn the fullness of Christ’s joy.  He has all the joy that can be had.  To apply our definition, He has a full and perfect satisfaction in Himself as the 2nd person of the Godhead, and a full and perfect delight in His own will as God.  Whenever the Bible speaks of fullness of joy, it is speaking of the joy that Christ has – a joy that the saints of God can look forward to someday when we finally enter into the joy of the Lord.

Continue reading “The Fullness of Christ’s Joy”

Fullness of Joy Is Found in Christ

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11)

What is the object of your joy? If you answer that it is “yourself,” you would be guilty of a terrible conceit. Yet, the object of Jesus Christ’s joy is most certainly Himself, as there is nothing higher for Jesus to delight in or to enjoy than Himself.

The joy of Jesus Christ consists of an absolute satisfaction in Himself and a delight and joy in Himself.  I repeat what I said in an earlier post: that God has a complete happiness and satisfaction with Himself and with His will, and at the same time a delight in that will.[1]

Continue reading “Fullness of Joy Is Found in Christ”

The Unsurpassed Joy of Jesus

The Bible overflows with the joy of God.

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Hebrews 1:8-9)

Jesus has more joy than any other being.  Surely that points to the fact of His joy.  Psalm 16 strengthens this conclusion.

I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

I am not saying anything profound when I say that if Jesus were moody or gloomy or sullen rather than full of joy, there could not be pleasures forevermore at His right hand.[1] We could never expect to have more joy than our creator – and heaven could only be as happy as God is.

Continue reading “The Unsurpassed Joy of Jesus”