What types of things frustrate you? Overwhelming schedules, gridlocked traffic, a burnt meal, finances that just don’t add up! These are all things that can easily steal our joy. We have all faced them, so we know the potential they have to knock us off our perch.
What about the big things? A diagnosis of cancer, death of a loved one, loss of a home or career. These things are devastating. But do any of these things have the right to steal our joy? The right to do so can only be granted by one person. You. And it all depends on where you have placed your significance. We hear many people say “At least the family is all together.” or “As long as we have our health, we have everything”. While these things we can certainly be grateful for, what happens when we can no longer say those things. The family is no longer together, or our health fails. The most precious things in our lives like love, family, health, are not always guaranteed. So, what happens to our joy when these important things seem to evaporate?
Consider the words of Paul in Phillipians chapter 4:10-13
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Those words resonate and offer us a tremendous amount of hope. But how does one honestly attain to the level where they actually become reality? All people wrestle through life, healthy bodies and robust bank accounts do NOT make us immune to the struggles of life. There have been extremely wealthy men who admit they would give every penny away in a heartbeat, if they could see their child walk again. And there are people who are wheelchair bound that are thankful because their struggle has driven straight into the arms of Jesus every day of their life.
At 27 years of age, my Father suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. It felt far to early. Too early for him to leave. And certainly too early for me to be saying good bye. But even in the midst of deep inexpressible loss, I remember my husband and I counting all the things we were thankful for. For his entire life my father knew only good health. No long drawn out days of infirmity and suffering. He was a great dad. My entire life we were very close which is not something everyone can boast. And the greatest joy of all – I knew he was in heaven. I could not be sad for him. Only for myself. And if there was one thing my father taught me, there is no place for that. And with time, the deep sense of sadness was replaced with cheerful memories and exceedingly great joy in a God who gives eternal life.
So what is your joy capacity? If your joy is found in the presence and glory of Jesus, the circumstances of the day cannot dictate your contentment. They cannot steal your joy. Sadness, perplexities, temptations are very real, but when your joy is based on the reward of Christ, the loss we may face in this world will not crush us. It cannot claim its right to our joy.
Saul, the well-respected religious leader of his day, became Paul and was told he was going to be the one to bring the Gospel to the kings of the world. Indeed he went from the temples to the prisons. His ascend into ministry was in earthly terms a great descent. That is a paradox for us. Most of us have the idea if we are going to influence the world around us, we need to be flush with resources, well-educated, and respected in our communities. But Paul, in losing his circumstances and becoming scorned, hated, and persecuted, was able to bring the Gospel to the Highest levels of the Roman Empire from the his dirty, underground prison cell. These were the cells from which, after the beatings, hymns of praise from the lungs of the persecuted reached the ears of the Creator of the world. They knew their reward would be the Christ himself.
At what point do the adversities of your life have the right to stake their claim to your joy? Only you can decide at what point you are willing to relinquish it. There will be pain and sorrow along the way. There will be times that smiles and laughter are absent, but the joy of our reward, that is Jesus Christ, is ever-present and carrying us through. Compared to that, our troubles being light and momentary will not overtake us and steal our true joy.