Our society tells us to chase happiness. The world around us shuts out the negative, the pain, and the reality. Instead, we are told to think positively and find happiness. God tells us a different message. We were made for joy. Joy that isn't based on circumstances. Joy that isn't based on what is happening in our life, whether good or bad. Joy that doesn't close its eyes to pain, but acknowledges God enters into our suffering. This is what we are made for.
Joy is more than happiness.
When we look at the world around us, we see a common theme of running after happiness. Blog posts like, "9 Small Steps That Will Make You Happier, Starting Now" or "5 Simple Ways to Be Happy" or "How to Be Happy" are very common in our culture today. Many of these posts are filled with advice on how to live a happier life. We are told to take time to breathe for 30 seconds and our life with be okay. We are told to chase this feeling of happiness and our life will be great, yet God has a completely different message for us.
God tells us of something called joy. Joy is delight that is deep in our soul. It's not a feeling or something we have to find. Joy is not a thing based on circumstances, but instead is planted in us no matter what we experience. This is counter cultural. It's not a popular message, but it's a message that is transformative and life changing if we realize what it means. Our joy is based on the fact that there is a God who sent His son to save us thousands of years ago. The joy we have is rooted in the good news of Jesus Christ.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. || Psalm 1:3
This is what it is like to have joy as a child of God. Our joy does not come and go with how our life is going. It is rooted, strong, and unshakable. It does not wither or disappear, but it flourishes no matter what storm comes.
God created us for joy.
In the very beginning, God created Adam and Eve and place them in the garden. This garden was filled with animals of every kind, blossoming flowers, colorful vegetation, and every kind of fruits and trees. God could have created a boring garden filled with grey grass, black fruit, and white animals. He could have made all food taste the same and every human similar to one another. However, He chose to design every person with unique eye color, hair color, and personality. He made not just one type of food, but every kind of berry, vegetable, and spice! After all this work, He stopped and delighted in His work. He took joy in what He had created.
Our God is a God of joy. Many of us have this perception that God is sitting on His throne in heaven and judging the world beneath Him. We see Him as a dominant and overbearing King. The God we see in the Bible is nothing like this picture we've created in our minds. He is a God of laughter, abundance, diversity, color, creativity, and joy. He takes delight in mankind and in the things He creates. Since we are created in His image, we are also meant to live in this same joy! We are meant to delight in His creation and enjoy the abundance of living life with our Savior.
Where does our joy come from?
The joy we carry is based on Jesus. It is focused on the fact that Jesus came in human form, lived on Earth only to die for our sins, has now risen again to give us access to His grace, and will come again to wipe every tear from our eyes. This is the good news we base our joy on. There is a Savior who died for us because of His undying affection for every one of us. And guess what? We don't have to do anything to earn this favor and grace. It is a free gift waiting for us at the foot of the cross. All we have to do is come to Jesus.
Even though we carry this joy as children of God, this doesn't mean our life is void of suffering. As stated before, the world will tell us to block out the negative and only focus on the positive. However, our joy is not based on circumstances. It is based on the cross where Jesus died for each of us. We have to fight for joy even as we walk through suffering. As Christians, we need to recognize that God walks with us through our suffering and pain. He hasn't abandoned us when life gets hard. We know that God enters into our suffering with us, feeling our pain and hurt. When we walk through the celebrated moments of life, we carry joy. When we crawl through the hard seasons of life, we carry the same joy. As we walk through pain in life, we have to take joy in the Giver of life rather than expecting His gifts. Just as Job in the Bible had to trust in God during many trials, so do we have to trust in our Father who knows what He is doing. He won't always give us things we ask for, yet we take delight in who He is rather than what we get from Him.
The difference between killing joy and cultivating it.
We live in a world trapped in comparison, isolation, and greed. All of these things are killers of joy. We tend to isolate from community and take for ourselves. This will only kill the joy God has for us. However, when we focus on Jesus, build relationships, and give to others we will find the joy we hear about in the Bible. No longer based on circumstances, but based on our Savior.