10 June 2014 by Adeliyn Lim –
Having a topic imprinted so clearly in the mind’s eye, yet I was unable to write about it for some time. It was a struggle to write on the topic of joy, when joy is scarce in life’s landscape I found myself in. However, as I’m led to explore this word “joy”, I explore it’s meaning for myself – by learning what joy isn’t, to further understand what joy is, and from where it comes from.
What is joy not?
Joy is not Happiness
I discover that joy does not equate happiness, especially that of the worldly manner. Being happy is momentary. One can receive a gift and feel happy about the gift for a moment. Yet in just another moment, the feeling of happiness is replaced by a negative emotion such as irritation in seeing a gift one didn’t like, or indignation when one realized the gift was made to provoke.
Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) says that “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus’ time on earth was not a pleasant time, considering that He was its Creator. He was mocked, scolded, rejected, ridiculed, framed, slandered, betrayed, flogged, and finally hung on the cross. I doubted He experienced happiness in those times. But the mission He had come to accomplish – to restore the ties between men and God – was done with gladness (joy).
Joy is not Gratefulness
Joy did not equate gratefulness, although gratefulness is a gateway to experiencing joy. Being grateful is to be able to give thanks for the things one receives. It’s easy to be grateful when one receives what is desirable: wealth, material gain, or articles of pleasure. But when one receives something that is not desirable: loss of income, sickness, betrayal, even death – it is nearly impossible to be grateful at the time. However, Apostle Paul challenged us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Fact is, gratefulness is a learned response. When Paul tells the Romans to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), he is telling them to do something deliberately. In Acts 16:25, we find Paul and Silas after being stripped, beaten and thrown into jail without trial – they were praying and signing praises to God! This was something they were able to do, as they were able to cultivate a thanksgiving spirit in all circumstances, and thus was able to exude joy despite the persecution they were facing.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is
— his good, pleasing, and perfect will”.
– Romans 12:2
Joy is not about blessings.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, joy is “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires” or “the expression or exhibition of such emotion”. In other words, the world we live in defines joy as an emotion expressed when they have been blessed.
King David was the King who was famous for his expression of joy through dance and music for the victories God gave to him. However, he was also the king who was constantly on the run, first from King Saul, and later on, his own son Absalom.
Under the various circumstances, the son of Jesse will always be remembered as the Man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). It was he who danced before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14, 1 Chronicles 15:29) and wrote 73 of the 150 psalms.
Many of these psalms were written not when he was blessed with victories or when he was the King over Israel. These psalms of David, speaking of deliverance and praises, were mainly written when David was on the run for his own life.
So what is joy? How do we get joy?
The Hebrew word for joy is “chedvah” which means “rejoicing, gladness, joy”. In Greek, it is “chara” meaning “calm delight – cheerfulness”.
Joy is a gift, borne from God's Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
A fruiting plant is planted, nurtured, cultivated to bear the same kind of fruit, over and over again. Likewise, the Spirit is planted in us when we profess that we believe. It is then nurtured by the Word, cultivated by our thoughts and actions, and bears fruit. Therefore, in order to know what joy is we must first know the One who enables the Spirit to produce joy, read and practice the Word given to us. He does so by bringing us messages by those who have seen and heard, and even being touch by Him in the spirit, so that we, who believe are also able to experience Him through others. (I John 1:1-4)
Subsequently, the fruit of the Spirit enables the owner to be happy with whatever that is given. Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NKJV) tell us that “Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.”
In other words, when life throws lemons at the person, the joy of the Lord enables him to say "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)
“These things I have spoken to you,
that My joy may remain in you,
and that your joy may be full.”
I came to realize that joy is an experience in which only God can grant us. Joy does not depend on our circumstances and our moods. It is something that is constant; it is from within us because He lives within. One can have the same joy in terrible circumstances that they would have when everything is well.
An illustration of joy in all circumstances is a lady named Louisa M. R. Stead. In the late 19th century, she and her family were having a picnic when they saw a boy drowning. Her husband rushed to save the boy, but to her horror she could only watch as both he and the boy drowned instead.
This tragic event had inspired the hymn “ ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”.
Let’s take some time to reflect on the final stanza and chorus from the woman who witnessed her husband’s death.
I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Saviour, Friend,
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end
Chorus: Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus,
O for grace to trust Him more.
Relationships fail us. Circumstances overwhelm us. Life places us in the way of high winds and rough seas. But the Bible tells us clearly from whence our joy comes from. The challenge is to trust Him and allow Him to work in us in all circumstances.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Adeliyn Lim has oscillated between Kuantan, Penang and KL, currently working as a human resources specialist in a telecommunications company. She admits that the walk with God is at times like a walk on the beach in sunny weather and at times like stumbling on cobbled alleys on dark, stormy days. Her philosophy in life is, “Life is a bed of roses. Thorns included.”
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