A Bubbling Joy
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy.”
(Psalm 16:11a ESV)
Did you ever think of joy as a responsibility? As followers of God, it is His desire for us to be joyful and to be joy-spreaders in this world around us. Yet, as we think of the people in our lives right now who are not experiencing joy, we realize that we are surrounded by pain, sorrow, depression, and sadness. Where is the joy?
Jesus prayed that we, as His followers, would have His joy made complete within us (John 17:13). Has God not answered His Son’s prayer? Or are we not receptive to the answer? Too often we choose to focus on the problem and not on Jesus, who can solve the problem. Or on the pain, and not on the Spirit who is our comforter. Or on the conflict and not on the one who came to this world with the announcement of peace.
If we are choosing to be joyful and still are not experiencing it, we have ask what might be blocking the joy God wants to send our way. The first block may be sin. If we have sinful attitudes such as envy, resentment, critical spirit, or unforgiveness, joy cannot get through. And, sinful actions, though they may bring temporary enjoyment, will not bring true joy. Instead, sin leads to despair and hopelessness. So, the first step toward joy is confession. That step of obedience might lead us initially through a path of sorrow, but at the end of that path is joy.
A second block to joy may be our own selves. If we are living lives in our own strength, we will burn out. We can do only so many good deeds and accomplish only so many spiritual milestones before we get tired. The sooner we give up trying so hard and give ourselves, as we are, over to God, the quicker the joy can come. When we’ve given control to God, we find that, no matter what is going on in our lives, we are resting secure in the One who is powerful and good and will see us through. Joy becomes our auto pilot through every kind of stress.
British writer George MacDonald is credited with saying there are three things we need to make us joyful: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. Through our relationship in Christ, we have all three:
First, we have someone to love. Only God is worthy of our fullest love and deepest devotion. In fact, the psalm writer tell us that God is enough to fulfill our desires. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25). Our love for God empowers and motivates everything else we do. But in our lives as Christians, God has given us the joy of loving each other, too. There is no bond so deep as the bond between two people who both love God completely.
Second, we have something to do. The activities we engage in as God’s children are purposeful. He wants us to do what we do with all our might and to the best of our ability. He wants us to bring the message of His kingdom to people we know. An awareness that all we do on earth has eternal consequence gives our lives real purpose.
Third, we have something to hope for. We have hope because we know we can trust the God who is in control. But there is more to our hope than what we see in this life. We know there is a promised life to come in which we will experience joy to the full and forever!
“A Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot!” – Augustine