For the last several months, actually year and a half, joy is not something I would say has been a benchmark in my life or the life of my family. (I know many can relate.) At least by the world’s standard, “joy” has eluded us. The world’s definition of joy equates, really, to happiness. In fact, the Miriam-Webster dictionary defines it this way, “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” I know as a Christian that happiness in this life is not my end goal, but even as Christians I think we can still get caught up in measuring our “joy” by how happy we are. Then, we may even begin to assess our walk with God, by our degree of happiness. If we are not happy, our walk must be off. Am I alone here?
I was encouraged by a recent sermon that the joy of the Lord is my STRENGTH...not my happiness. I had a revelation of sorts as my pastor described himself and his wife, through tears, reminding each other of these words as they struggled with a bad week. In that moment I pictured the many evenings over the last months sitting with my husband, as our family has taken one blow after another, hardly feeling joy, wondering if we are substandard Christians because through it all we weren't beaming with delight. Some days so heavy, a single smile escaped us. My analytical and sometimes self-critical mind asks; Have I completely failed at this whole “joyful Christian wife” thing? Do my children now think that following Jesus is a sentence to misery and challenges that continually strip away our smiles and laughter replacing them with tears and heartache?
As my Pastor’s words rang through my mind and I remembered recent days, weeks and months gone by, I was profoundly encouraged that the joy of the Lord is not my happiness, it’s my STRENGTH! It’s going to bed at night after lifting up thanks for our day and this life, but also our concerns, fears and pleas for help knowing that although we are perplexed we are not driven to despair. It’s knowing that even when we are pressed on every side by troubles, we are not, and will not be crushed. It’s knowing that when we are knocked down we will not be destroyed. We might be hunted down but we will never be abandoned. It’s the quiet strength on a somber day that knows, where there is the absence of a smile, the belief from deep within the soul that better days are ahead, is present. It’s a strength that cannot be measured by the physical, because it comes from the supernatural. It’s the air in our lungs on the days when it feels like the best you can do it to just breathe.
Jesus himself was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. So why should we as His followers think our lives would be filled with comfort, happiness and light-heartedness? Those things were not promised to us by God. But what He did promise us is the hope of God above us and the rock of God’s word under our feet. Those are the things that bring us unconquerable joy in the midst of trials. This is what the world needs to see from us as pursuers of God…they need to see that our hope of Heaven above lifts our heads when life wants to take us down. They need to see that the foundation of God’s word under our feet guides our steps when we feel at a loss for how to move forward. This world doesn’t need to see our superficial smiles to know that we are authentic believers in Jesus Christ. People need to see us living the Gospel by the strength of the Holy Spirit which gives us patience with our families and those around us when times are hard. They need to see us reaching out and loving others when our instincts tell us to retreat and protect ourselves. They need to see that we are anchored to Something so profound that we will not be shaken by the circumstances around us, nor will we become embittered or grumbling people. We will not give way to discouragement because we KNOW the Lord is coming to our rescue. Period. This is living out the joy of the Lord is your strength.