What Brings You Joy?

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Here’s What Brings You Joy?

I’ve been thinking a lot about joy recently, especially after a new friend remarked that I was a surprisingly happy person given all I’d been through. She attributed it to my resilience, natural disposition, and the things that were going well in my life. While those factors certainly have contributed to my happiness, I know my joy has deepened over time because of the ways the Lord has met me.  

The years after my ex-husband left our family were some of the most difficult of my life and I wondered if I would ever laugh again. I didn’t think I could ever be happy and doubted that God could redeem all the loss. My body was failing, our home life was disintegrating, and my daughters were hostile to God— almost everything I once valued was crumbling. And yet now, over 12 years later, I see how God is redeeming those years and has redefined what brought me joy.

I looked up the word “joy” and noticed there are 179 references to joy in the ESV translation of Scripture. As I read through them, I saw that what brings people joy in the Bible is not their personalities, good health, or smooth circumstances but something more substantial. Joy is often connected to trials, God’s word, and to heaven which explains why my joy took root in my suffering and how Paul was, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). There have been many reasons for my joy, including these three critical factors:

Something Better Awaits

We find joy when we know that something better is waiting for us. Most of us are willing to put up with short-term hardship when we know it won’t last long. Of course, “long” is a relative term since the Bible says that our afflictions are “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17) and that we only suffer for “a little while” (1 Peter 5:10) which may mean a lifetime. But compared to eternity, our time on earth truly is fleeting. Hebrews 10:34 says, “for you had compassion on those in prison and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” We can have joy in what we’re enduring – even if it is hard – because we know there are better things coming. Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). When we know that unfathomable joy is assuredly coming, we can more readily put up with temporary sorrow.

When I was feeling desperate, I would often sing (usually off key) Josh Wilson’s Before the Morning. I would repeat these words:

Would you dare, would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing?
‘Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming

Restoration, Redemption and Returning

When our plans go exactly as we want them to, we are rightfully happy. If we never lose our money or possessions, or never have rebellious children, we are probably thankful we aren’t dealing with the heartache that others have. And yet the Bible describes the joy that we experience in finding lost sheep or lost coins or restoring with lost children. It’s a more profound joy than if things had never gone awry. The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coins and prodigal son in Luke 15 all speak to the joy of restoration and repentance as Jesus said, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

Anyone who has found or redeemed something that was once lost or broken knows the joy I’m referring to. When my daughters turned from God after our family fell apart, I was heartbroken. The low point was when one of them said, “I want nothing to do with your God” as she threw a Kleenex box at me. But my joy felt all the deeper when years later I watched her being commissioned as a missionary to West Africa.

All of us experience situations with deep pain and unfulfilled longings that have had no resolution. There is no return of the prodigal, no restoration, no rebuilding. There is only ache and loss and sorrow and an awaiting of restoration.

While I don’t know how any struggles, either mine or yours, will end specifically, I do know that God will redeem them. These words from Selah’s song Unredeemed have comforted me many times:

We live in the shadow of the fall
But the cross says these are all
Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
It may be unfulfilled
It may be unrestored
But when anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord
Just watch and see
It will not be unredeemed

God’s Presence and Word

The greatest ongoing source of joy for me is God’s presence and his Word. While God is with us all the time, and we will never live one minute without him, in suffering God feels close. I can’t explain why, but for me when I am desperate with nowhere to turn, God comes near.

God also feels near when I’m reading Scripture. Somehow the Spirit transforms the printed words on a page to living water that refreshes me, gives me life and wisdom, and makes me love God more. And the more I read the word and depend on it, the more joy I have. When I was a young Christian, I grew bored reading the Bible. I felt I’d read it all before and wasn’t getting much out of it anymore. But now the more I read and ask God for insight, the better I know the Lord and the greater my delight in him. I finally understand Jeremiah’s joy when he said, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).

These words may feel hollow to people who are struggling with both visible and invisible wounds and don’t feel any joy right now. I understand that. But the beautiful thing is that joy isn’t a personality trait— it’s available to all of us who love Christ, for our joy is in him and comes from him. Even when our pain feels relentless, we can be sure that the hard things will be redeemed, God will make all things new, and the best is yet to come. And even now, when life is still unraveling, living by the Spirit –being with the Lord and listening to him speak through the Word — produces joy. So if you are discouraged today and feel you’ve lost your joy, sit with God and his Word. Repeat his promises. Cry out to him and ask the Lord to draw near to you, for he is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. And he gives us joy as we hope in him.

source : https://www.vaneetha.com/journal/what-brings-you-joy

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