“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” James 1:2, ESV
Now that we’ve gotten three months of 2015 under out belts, I’ve started reflecting on how the year has gone so far. Heading into this year, the only thing I knew is that 2014 was a year that I did not care to repeat. EVER. There were many very trying times in my life, the details of which I won’t go into. But suffice it to say that at least on of those times were storms that made every day life feel like a chore. Everything seemed completely upside down, and not in a good way. But There we a lot of positive changes that came out of those times, and while I still have no desire to repeat any of it, my days certainly seem brighter, my marriage is definitely stronger in many aspects, and I even think that our church life (and ministry to others) is healthier.
As this year unfolds I find that I keep studying passages in the bible that focus on joy. The passage I’ve quoted from James above is a great synopsis of what I see playing out in relation to joy over and over again. James tells us that we are to actively CHOSE to be joyful. The Apostle Paul exudes joy throughout the letter he wrote to the Philippians–while he was in prison in Rome, waiting to find out his fate. I see people around me that are joyful in the face of struggling with things like the loss of a spouse, cancer, job loss, etc.
So how can some people have joy in pretty much every situation, while others are still wracked with worry? It all boils down to the definition of the word joy. There is a difference between joy and happiness that is critical to understand. Happiness is a fleeting emotional high point, but joy is much more lasting. It’s impossible to be always happy (even for those people that ALWAYS seem happy…please do those of us that don’t a favor and admit that you aren’t always happy!), but joy can always be experienced. I think Rick Warren did a great job when he proposed this definition of joy
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.
I’m slowly coming to understand what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians in 4:10-13. Joy doesn’t come when you are focused on you situation and what you can do. Joy comes instead from focusing on Jesus in your situation and what He has already done. When you make that shift in your mindset and chose to relinquish control to the God who is already in control, be confident that He will work everything out in the best possible way (even if that doesn’t align with our own thinking), and praise Him for what He is doing then you will experience that deep sense of joy that is so frequently mentioned in the New Testament.