How can a Christian experience joy in such a world as this? What is there that could possibly help us to be joyful when we are not immune from the pain, suffering and difficulty around us?
Are we to be joyful only at certain times, or at all times? What does that joy look like?
Perhaps the greatest challenge for any believer is the challenge of accepting that we are to be joyful in adverse circumstances. It is not that the Scriptures do not make this abundantly clear, but that we are not entirely sure how this is supposed to be accomplished.
After all, can a man weep and have joy at the same time? Aren’t we told to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice? Doesn’t that indicate a difference of emotion?
It is true that there is a time for weeping, and a time for rejoicing. However, the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit is to with us at all times.
Sorrow and joy are not mutually exclusive. That is to say, they are not enemies, but often friends.
A Christian may experience sorrow at the loss of a godly mother, yet have joy in the knowledge that she is no longer suffering and that they will see each other again.
This is truly the secret to Holy Spirit joy in the life of the believer. It is a secret knowledge which bolsters us in times of great difficulty.
Before going more deeply into this topic, I think it is good to define joy. The word joy is defined as a calm delight or gladness. It is something which comes from within, regardless of the pressures from without.
Consider some of the following verses:
Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
Act 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
Act 20:24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
Romans 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
2 Corinthians 8:2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
Philippians 2:17 Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.
This is only a small group of verses, but they illustrate something very important. The external circumstances are not what determined the joy, but an internal knowledge, and the internal power of God.
Are you suffering for the sake of the gospel? Amidst this discomfort is the calm delight in knowing that Jesus suffered the same way, and that it will result in a great reward in Heaven.
Have you suffered the loss of worldly possessions? In the midst of this loss, is the calm delight in knowing that we have an inheritance waiting for us which cannot be taken away.
Are you facing the scorn of your peers or family members? There is the joy in knowing that God loves you, and died to save you.
Are you dealing with difficult circumstances? There is joy in knowing that God is working all things together for your good.
Now…I admit that this is much easier in theory than in practice. It is impossible, except through the help of the Holy Spirit.
As we are walking in submission to Him, we know that whatever befalls our lives, will be used for our good and His glory. This calm delight in knowing such a secret gives us joy which cannot be taken away.
So we weep, but we maintain our joy.
We suffer, but we maintain our joy.
We are lonely, but we maintain our joy.
Because the Holy Spirit in us fills us with joy in the knowledge of what God has done for us, and the hope of what He will yet do in the future.
Heavenly Father, you have shown us in your Word that joy comes through the Holy Spirit in us, and is a gift from you. Regardless of the circumstances I face today, let me maintain joy, through your Spirit, as a result of what you have done for me. Remind me that no matter what happens in my life; that you love me, and have a plan and a purpose for my life. In Jesus name, amen.