Psalm 34:4-8 (NLT) I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
The word “joy” is often confused with happiness. Happiness is a feeling based on the current condition of our life but joy is confidence in the God of our life. Our youngest child’s middle name is “Joy”. It wasn’t our first thought. I was convinced she was a boy. When the ultrasound tech told us she was a girl and not a boy, I asked if she was sure. She was confident enough to bet her paycheck on it. My husband clearly in shock muttered, “We don’t even have a girl name.” The name selection process started all over again. Shortly after our surprise came the devastating news that my grandfather was ill. It would soon be his time to join Jesus. It was a devastating time. I began to contemplate a namesake. His name was Isaac. His namesake was Isaac in the Bible. Isaac was given his name when his mother laughed upon hearing she would bear a child in her nineties. I would have laughed, too…all the way to the looney bin. Joy was noted as the female version with the same meaning so it would become our youngest daughter’s name. Joy came in the midst of devastation. It’s funny how that works sometimes…I never really thought about it until today.
As Ecclesiastes 3 clearly delineates there are many seasons in life – both good and bad. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” All of them. I think it is important to remember that sin was not God’s idea but mankind’s rebellion against God’s Perfect Plan and Glorious Standard of Living. Yet God in His Unfailing Love and Infinite Grace STILL loves and desires His Children. God preordained our life with a future and hope that is attainable if so desired but gives us the freedom to choose who we will serve. This is important as one will soon see in the Word of God. As always, God includes a promise of recovery, renewal, restoration and rebirth in all seasons – “yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the scope of God’s Work from beginning to end.”
While happiness is temporary coming and going according to each season, the joy of the Lord remains constant for those who put their trust in Him. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy. Those who look to him for help can only mean that there will be times of need, fear, desperation and desire in our life that turn us from the lesser things to grab hold of hope. Impossible precedes every miracle. Trials are an opportunity to trust. Even in the darkest night, the Light of His Love surrounds us. He sings over us a joyful song. Joy is coming in the morning when His Mercy comes and offers us a better way. Finding joy is not an outward pursuit but an inward mission.
Deuteronomy 28:47-48 (NLT) If you do not serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. You will be left hungry, thirsty, naked, and lacking in everything. The Lord will put an iron yoke on your neck, oppressing you harshly until he has destroyed you.
We choose each day who to serve. Will I serve the Lord today? Or will I serve something else? There are really only two choices. Our feelings and emotions are linked to rebellious flesh. We can choose to give into our feelings or serve the God who is greater than our feelings (I John 3:20)! To serve the Lord with joy and enthusiasm in the midst of trial or trauma is evidence that His Spirit lives inside of us and has been given control. He produces “love, joy, peace” and so much more. He does it. I cannot produce joy for myself. I cannot serve the Lord apart from the love, grace and mercy of the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ and my acceptance of His Gift. I call Him Savior. I must also call Him Lord to reap the benefits and blessings of pure joy. I cannot find it on the earth. It lives in depravity. Love grows colder each day as it is dying plant. Sin is rampant as the departure from God is evident. But…the Light of His Love shines in the darkness as a beacon for those who love and desire Him. One promise of many is joy. We must choose joy each day.
I do not discuss politics. I will not be lured into an argument with anyone about elections or presidents. No matter who is in the White House, the Word of God says that God chose them whether I did or not. The one thing I do tell people all the time is that if you do not vote then you forfeit your right to complain. If you do not choose, then you do not have a right to be mad about it. We have been given the right to choose who we serve in this life and beyond. To choose Jesus is to choose a life of joy. It is not an exemption from every problem but a promise that in every situation you will overcome and have victory according to the Champion that lives inside of you. You must choose one or the other. To Jesus is to have consistent and constant joy as a product of the faith and hope as the unseen reality that produces such power in our life.
Ezra 3:11-13 (NLT) With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord: “He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!” Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.
The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance. The rebuilding of the temple was a big deal. It represented a place to house the Presence of the Lord. When the foundation was laid, the young praised God, shouted to Him, and celebrated openly. The older leaders began to weep aloud. Such a mixture of emotions filled the air, it could be heard far away. When I read this today, it struck a chord in me. My life is filled with much happiness. God is doing so many good things. But there are struggles and challenges, too. Things that are not as they should be. Situations that require the Lord’s Attention beyond my own ability. Mountains and valleys with definite highs and lows that take human emotions on a rollercoaster ride to nowhere but insanity if allowed to run its course. Isn’t that really what life is all about? We have highs and lows every day. Great things, good things, not-so-good things and then those things that just are not good at all. God promises to work it all out for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) How do I find joy in such a mixture? How do I allow it to be the place where I live?
Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT) And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
To summarize Nehemiah chapter 8, the wall of Jerusalem was finally finished after much adversity. The people gathered together to dedicate the new wall and celebrate their success together by having church. As the Word of God was read in the form of the Law of Moses, the people were overwhelmed and began to weep. Nehemiah exhorted the people, “This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I think sometimes our feelings get in the way of our joy…okay all the time. These people lived before the dispensation of God’s Grace, but we live a new free life in Jesus Christ. If I look at my life through my choices, decisions, and errors – I am clearly unfit and unworthy of any good thing God does in my life. However, if I decide to look at my life through Jesus Christ deciding that His Grace is the power driving my life and learn to love and trust Him then I will have joy in that place of surrender.
Psalm 16:11 (NLT) You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
Joy is found in the Presence of God. To live in His Presence is to find a way of life not defined by current affairs but a constant love affair with Jesus. We find peace in this place that nothing else can ever provide because it is on the inside working its way out. (Psalm 4:6-8) To live in the prevailing Presence of God gives us more joy than tangible things or natural success. His Joy gives a place of peace to rest our head and heard each day. The world cannot comprehend it or understand it because they cannot experience it outside of Jesus. The Temple build in the Old Testament was the place where the people could experience His Presence but they could not enter into it only the priest could after offering substantial sacrifices for sin. When Jesus died on the Cross, He released His Spirit and tore the veil from top to bottom as an open invitation to step into His Presence and live there. He put His Spirit inside of us so love, joy and peace can be the productivity of our life. We have His Presence therefore we have found our joy. It is up to you and me if we choose to enter in and live there. It is a daily decision to allow His Spirit to produce good fruit or continue to try to control our emotions and feelings by pursuing happiness rather than hope.
Psalm 20:4-5 (NLT) May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. May the Lord answer all your prayers.
God promises to grant our heart’s desire when He is the treasure we seek. He promises to make our life rich and satisfying. Full of abundance. Who doesn’t want that kind of success? Praise Him today. Not because everything is going great and every problem has been solved, but because you have victory. You win. We win! Christ lives in us. He is working it all out for our good. In the meantime, His Presence is our waiting place until the final score is posted. We must raise the banner in the Name of Jesus and decide that He is our Father, Healer, Provider, Protector, Prosperity, and Confident Hope. To believe that He has it under control gives us peace that produces joy in us. Joy comes from the desperate times, broken hearts, and the impossible because usually that is the only time one truly turns to God. Don’t let that be you. Let His Presence fill you with peace and produce joy in your life today. Finding Joy is simply finding Jesus. Grabbing hold of hope with both hands and letting go of control. To constant plant faith in every barren situation and waiting until new things grow. God loves you. He is for you. He is as desperate for your turnaround as you are. Find joy in the Lord today. He is waiting for those who seek Him. They will find their joy.
Psalm 30:11 (NLT) You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy…