Joy is something that everyone wants, but most never find true, deep joy. Joy is not only a fruit of the Spirit; it’s also a spiritual power with a force behind it. It’s more than “happiness” (which is fleeting). The true joy of the Lord is sustaining; we find this to be true especially when our circumstances are not ideal, and we can still have joy.
Joy in the Kingdom of God
Romans 14:17 tells us, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Let’s break this down:
- Righteousness: We don’t have to blame anyone or take on personal shame in God’s Kingdom. Jesus has taken care of everything to put us in right standing with God.
- Peace: We can have peace and rest in any and every circumstance.
- Joy: We can be the happiest people on earth, even in the midst of difficulties and trials.
We may not always FEEL joy, especially when everything is going wrong, but we can be happy because we have Jesus, “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We can remind ourselves that God is good ALL the time and expect that He’ll be good to us.
Ways to Cultivate Joy
There are many ways to cultivate joy when you’re not feeling especially joyful. In my deepest pain, I go to the Psalms to find joy and comfort. Psalm 100 is one of my favorites because it helps me to focus on God’s attributes and goodness, which is sure to help create joy in me.
Spending time in worship also promotes joy. You can’t help feeling joyful as you declare God’s truth and goodness; joy gets stirred up in you!
Start speaking the Word of God aloud over yourself and your circumstances. We create worlds with our words — we can change an atmosphere with our declarations. Remember, greater is He that’s in you than he that’s in the world (1 John 4:4). So say what God says and how He says it, and you’ll feel joy beginning to grow in you.
Being in a relationship with other people is also an important source of joy.
God and People are Sources of Joy
Joy doesn’t come from having possessions, from people meeting our expectations, or from having the right personality style. GOD is the source of true joy, but people are not a false source of joy. God made our brains to connect with people and to receive joy from people.
This actually starts when we are infants. Babies smile and coo at caregivers to get them to smile back so babies’ brains register “joy.” Without downloading “joy” from their caregivers, babies won’t thrive. They need attention and comfort from their caregivers.
Similarly, God created us to need one another – we need people – we need to be able to have contact and connection. Alternatively, depression (which we think of as the opposite of joy) isolates. We need to be around people, plain and simple. We were made for joy. We were made to smile and to give and to receive love with joy. That’s how our brains are wired by God.
Real joy is being able to be with people who are real, genuine and authentic. People who love you and there’s nothing you have to do to earn it. They love you just as you are. And you do the same in return.
So what about you? Are you creating relationships at this level of authenticity? Do you invite people over or accept invitations from others? Do you let people in? Do you share? Do you reach out? Are you intentional about building authentic relationships where you can be real, not just cordial?
Joy in the Midst of Trials
James 1:2-4 reminds us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
You may wonder how in the world you can have joy in the midst of trials, but it is possible. What you have to realize is that joy isn’t about always having a smile on your face, because that won’t always happen.
But there’s power in refusing to let something steal your joy and make you fearful because you’re pushing through and persevering. And as we persevere, we develop maturity and find that we’re lacking nothing because of how we’re choosing to have joy during the trouble.
When we go through difficulties, we need one another. We need people — someone to be there that we can talk with – someone who will be genuine with us and show real compassion in that moment. It produces joy in us knowing that we’re not alone in our trouble and that others really do care about us. We feel joyful when we’re with someone who likes to be with us and we don’t have to earn it (unconditional love). We’re growing in the character of Christ when we’re able to be there for other people and to release joy in them despite what they’re facing.
We must constantly remember how big our God is instead of dwelling on how big our problems are. We don’t fake joy – be honest if you’re struggling – ask for prayer – and then let it go, remembering where you get your joy from. Remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and that you can do everything through Him who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13).
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