Joy. What comes to your mind when you read that word? Maybe it’s happiness, contentment from a day gone well, the wide grin of a child who’s just been given a great surprise, the tearful memories of time well spent with loved ones. Whatever it may be, notice how often we measure joy by our circumstances.
According to our world, pure joy is complete happiness, and happiness is rooted in pleasurable circumstances: something that can be explained and make logical sense. Yet, as I am sure you may already see, there is a disconnect between worldly happiness and biblical joy.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul commands them to “always be joyful.” There is no exception to this command, which automatically portrays a joy that endures trials and sorrows, disappointments and frustrations. I think that this joy is an inexplainable kind of joy. This joy thrives in adversity and plants delicate petals amidst ashes of confusion and heartbreak. This joy is as inexplainable as the fact that each and every sunset is entirely different from the rest. Not one is the same, but instead a painted expression of our creative God.
As I was flipping through the pages of my Bible a few days ago, I came across a long passage printed in red. I had read it before, but somehow missed a key point. This passage, which forms the entire chapter of John 17, is Jesus’ final prayer to his Father before His journey to the cross begins. As I read it aloud, tears squeezed through my lashes: “Now I am coming to you. I told [my followers] many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with joy.” Now, as we all know, Jesus said a great many things to encourage us and defend us and call us to serve Him. But, in His prayer, Jesus does not say “so that we would be filled with His strength or power or endurance,” but His joy. Doesn’t that imply, then, that everything we do as followers of Christ must be rooted in joy, first and foremost?
I believe that it does. In reading this passage, I realized just how important living in joy really is. Biblical joy, one that can only come from a personal relationship with our Savior, is the basis upon which we “encourage one another and build each other up.” It is only when we allow this joy to grow in our hearts that we can experience the strength of our mighty God and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve Him to the fullest. Without this joy, we feel empty and parched, weary from fighting against our own will.
Everything we do and receive from our Lord is rooted in a joy that we may only understand when this world has faded away. Today, dear sisters, invest in the joy that God has given you. For, as the great writer and theologian, C.S. Lewis, writes: “joy is the serious business of heaven.” Indeed, this joy is an eternal gift, and one that we can only begin to understand when we live out that joy every day.
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Lauryn Davis Kopp is a recent graduate from the University of Idaho with a degree in Professional Writing and is in the process of discerning where God is calling her in this next stage of life. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, she calls Wenatchee, Washington her home. She has a passion for nature and memoir writing and particularly enjoys writing about the simple beauty that God gives in the everyday and how His light has the power to break through any darkness.