2014-05-21 - What Does Joy Really Look Like?
As described by dictionary.com, joy (noun) is the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation. As a verb, from the same source, joy is: to feel joy; be glad; rejoice. All of this, from the human perspective, is very fleeting, as with most emotions. From God's perspective, joy can involve emotion and celebration (1 Chronicles 12:40), which can include music (1 Chronicles 15:16), worship (Leviticus 9:24) and meals together after the prosperity of land harvest occurs. Yet the ultimate joy comes from the promise given of prosperity, that the flesh cannot understand fully. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3). The physical is what we can connect to being human, and so God shares joys with his people through the temporal. But in the long run, he hopes we realize the bigger message beyond what can only satisfy us in temporary ways. He gives us little snippets, if you will, of what that joy can entail permanently, should we choose to live in joy and not just for fleeting joyful moments. Joy with God is what completes us. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
Even when we know complete joy in the Lord, it does not mean we will always appear happy to everyone. I, for instance, love to laugh and to make others laugh. Laughter helps people release stress, can break a tense moment, can help us get through the days that are most challenging. It doesn't mean that we, who enjoy laughter, find everything funny - and sometimes appropriateness must be considered. But there are also times that I do not feel like laughing. However, it does not mean I have lost my joy. Sure, there are some situations that can steal joy, even if only temporarily, yet for me, the place I always rest is in the joy of knowing I will always belong with the Father, no matter what happens in this tour of duty.
Joy can look like many things. It can be bravely fighting through cancer, or fighting back from just having stomach flu. It can be withstanding warlike situations, while fighting for our right to be free in this country. It can be making it through college finals, boards or a bar exam. It can be declaring your love for the Lord, by participating in baptism. It can be finding that one specific person with which you want to spend your life. It can be serving your community by helping with meals, doing repairs on a home or helping a family become free of abuse and getting them safe shelter. It can be teaching young children in the school system, at home, or working with other kids in an Autism Center.
There can be happiness in how we do what we do - and no joy. Or there can be joy in all we do, with an added bonus of moments of happiness. It may seem like a battle of semantics, yet I never want someone to confuse my joy for happiness, when there is so much more to joy than the span of a moment or two of a human emotion. Anyone who knows me can learn of why I have joy. Yet I will never find any happiness in suffering, although in the long run, I know my joy will remain, in spite of my own suffering or the suffering of others known and unknown to me. There is joy in doing what it is that God gifted you and educated you to do. You see, joy is about finding contentment in whatever your situation, and has little to do with the feelings about that situation. Joy is about hope. And there is only one place that hope exists. It's far beyond human comprehension, within a father who gave life to all. Happiness comes and goes. Joy is everlasting. I'm sograteful for the joy of the Lord.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philipians 4:11-12)
All scripture references are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise noted.