This time of year can be a difficult one for joy. Where we are, there is snow, snow, and more snow. It’s cold and blowing, cloudy all day, with layers of white on white. It can feel like our joy gets buried under there somewhere.
I knew it was bad when my husband stopped me to say, “It doesn’t seem like you have a lot of joy. I know you’re stressed, but where’s the joy?”
And I thought, “If I’m struggling to find the joy in this new season, there’s a good chance I’m not alone.”
I was shoveling our driveway the other day and Rend Collective’s “Joy of the Lord” came on (I like to listen to music while I shovel) and he references a verse from Nehemiah:
“…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”Nehemiah 8:10b
It occurred to me that joy is what carries us through the hard times. (See also: When You Feel Like You Can’t Fight)
So how do we find it, that joy that defies our circumstances?
Our son is six and he was writing a list last Saturday morning when I came downstairs. I asked him what he was making a list about and he simply answered, “Joy.” I asked him if I could use his list in my post this week and he gladly consented. I think he might be onto something.
Joy is greater than momentary happiness. It is a state of being, the state of our soul. It is not dependent on current circumstances but can draw from the past and hope for the future. Joy is a gift of the Spirit, growing in us as we encounter God. It springs from our security in our salvation and from knowing the Eternal Father.
Joy is tied to peace and strength, fueled by gratitude, and rooted in God. It’s a funny thing – both experienced actively and existing deep in our being. But when the troubles of the world, this life, and the storms surrounding us are all we can see, that joy that is at the center of us can seem fleeting and difficult to grasp.
So how can we get it back?
While researching verses on joy for this week, I stumbled on a passage from 1 Peter. It’s long, but it really spoke to me. I broke it down into pieces so we could experience it together, one bite at a time.
Joy and Hope
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”1 Peter 1:3-5
We can take joy in the hope of the resurrection and the inheritance we have in Christ. We have God, standing with us, guarding us in our faith until He returns to gather us to Himself.
Joy and Suffering
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”1 Peter 1:6-7
Though we all pass through various trials in this life, we can have joy when our faith grows in the midst of the hardship, knowing that one day He will return. And that the product of our testing is faith as pure as gold refined by fire.
Joy and Salvation
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”1 Peter 1:8-9
The love we have for our Savior Jesus Christ produces a joy that is beyond the understanding of the world. It is independent of circumstances, a product of love and gratefulness for salvation we did not earn. We have joy knowing we are free from the bondage of sin, that we have an eternal inheritance, and that our Redeemer is coming back to restore the world.
Reclaim Your Joy
The joy of the Lord truly is our strength, our hope, our peace.
It’s the little things in the middle of big circumstances.
There is joy in watching my daughter experience wind in her face for the first time.
Joy in the communion with Him in prayer, knowing I have the ear of the Almighty any time I speak His Name.
Joy looking at the pictures of my children, knowing that God was faithful granting the deepest desires of my heart.
When I hear His voice in Scripture, speaking through ancient words.
Witnessing my own testimony to His faithfulness in the stories in my journals.
Dancing around in the kitchen to our favorite worship songs, forgetting inhibitions and the weight of the world around us.
Joy is watching my 1-year-old nephew trying to take my son down; hanging on tight as my son pitches and rolls with the weight clinging to his leg.
It’s in the laughter sharing a meal with family and friends.
It’s giving hugs and back scratches to my elderly patients.
Joy is in reading poetry, listening to a symphony, and watching a ballet.
It’s climbing over a dune to see the expanse of Lake Michigan across the entire horizon.
It’s a good cup of coffee, a hot bath, a warm sweater on a windy day.
So take heart, Jesus has overcome the world (see John 16:33).
Dance around like no one is watching, because God is for us, not against us (see Romans 8:31).
Find the joy in all circumstances.
Jesus is coming. We are forgiven. Be fueled by joy.
What are the things in your life that bring you joy? What do you do and where do you look when you’re feeling low on joy?
Look for next week’s post: Songs That Speak to the Heart if you want some inspiration for that kitchen dancing I talked about.
If you are unable to find joy anywhere around you. If you feel surrounded by darkness and can’t find much reason for hope, I encourage you to seek professional help. We are meant to live in light not darkness and there is help and hope out there for you!