That's a choice I can make. Too often I think of my circumstances as definitive. If the sky is gray, I feel down. If there's an onerous task to be done, I dread it. If someone I love is upset, I join in. But when I really think about it, I can choose joy any day. Why don't I?
Joy isn't happiness, of course. Joy is the rock solid foundation beneath the circumstances.
That's why it makes sense when I read in Hebrews 12:2, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame”. There was no happiness in the cross. It was designed to shame a criminal to the utmost, along with excruciating pain.
Yet we know there was joy in it for You, Lord. What was that joy?
I love Eugene Peterson's take:
Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! Hebrews 12:If joy is the rock solid foundation beneath the circumstances, I should be able to endure anything. You kept Your mind fixed on the outcome, Lord.
You've promised me a future with You in heaven, in the presence of God the Father. You paid the price of admission for me already. Why would I not seek joy daily, knowing that?
I can't discount feeling happy, of course. I like happiness. Who doesn't? There are good things that please me, little things: a smile or a good laugh, a hug or kiss. A point in time, it brings momentary blessing, like sunlight coming out from behind a cloud.
Happiness is like a balloon. When it's filled up, it floats around, dancing in the sunlight, bringing smiles, until it pops and is gone in an instant.
Joy is much bigger, more like the air itself.
Joy is knowing. It's quiet and peaceful. It fills me up on the inside, like a bubble that's increasing in size and scope, filling me far beyond myself.
And so this morning as I read this,
We know how much God loves us...God is love...all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 1 John 4:16I understood. God's love living in me is the joy.
The best part of this is that love has won, is winning, and always wins! And it's available to me every day, all day, into eternity, if I will simply choose joy and not let myself become enmeshed in the web of my surroundings.
Those circumstances are temporary, I know that. Even happy ones don't last. Yet there's a more demanding quality to momentary discomfort. Rediscovering joy isn't always that easy.
But it can be done, with Your help, Lord Jesus.
Once we know joy, it's like a breath of fresh air to reach down into that inner landscape, tear away the layers of distraction—failure, injustice, bereavement, woundedness, entitlement, anxiety, despair—and take a deep, clean breath of joy.
Lord, on some days I have to do that reaching thing over and over and over again, reminding myself joy is there for the taking, while some days it rises up inside like a tide, filling me with the certainty I need.
Whatever its course, I know the source.