It’s easy to put on a grin when things are going great in your life – when you are not experiencing conflict. However, how can one experience Joy when things are not going well… When your wife is suffering from terminal cancer? When a man once a dear friend turns on you and persecutes you relentlessly for sins you did not commit? When your brother walks out on his wife and three children in order that he may “realize himself?”
Joy is a distinctly Christian privilege. Joy is something we can experience regardless of our external circumstances. James, the brother of Jesus writes in the beginning of his letter:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. –James 1:2
Joy is an inward spiritual level of contentment and fulfillment not determined by what happens to you externally, but a state of being internally. It is an inward outworking of the Holy Spirit in your life. It was how the Apostle Paul was able to remain joyful in prison awaiting his execution. It was how the martyrs were able to sing hymns that stirred crowds to tears as their flesh was being consumed by the flames. It is how when your best of friends turns on you with slander and malice when you are simply performing your daily duties in a Christian manner you can be joyful the you are being molded and shaped by Gods perfect plan. It is how you can live day to day as your loved one is eaten by cancer, but you know that the God of the Universe has them in the palm of His hand, and death is not having someone taken away from you, but having someone pave the way for you for the day when you too will receive your eternal reward and reunite with them in eternity.
Was Paul “happy” being in prison? Were the martyrs “happy” they were being put to death? Are you “happy” when you watch a loved one dying daily before your eyes or suffering the persecutions of someone you called “brother” or “sister”? Of course not.
Happiness is situational. Happiness is to a degree, fleshly – something you feel. I am happy when I get a sweet tax refund… then I am unhappy when I have to pay my bills. I am happy when I see the trailer for Rogue One. Then I am unhappy I have to wait nine months to see the movie! It’s like a drug – the effect wears off, but you need it again, and again, and again… and often times to a greater degree. Like a drug.
Joy sticks. Joy has staying power. Joy comes when the child of God is performing the will of God to the glory of God. Even though the process may not be a “happy” one, it can be a joyful one.