If you’re familiar with Scripture or were to search a Bible reference material, it’s apparent that the word “joy” appears a lot. Sometimes, many times, it appears in some pretty unlikely places, where logically the people would seem pretty unhappy. You may have heard before of contrasting the definitions of “happiness” versus “joy”, where “happiness” is dependent on immediate circumstances and focuses on us, whereas “joy” is outside of us and much more secure. Joy with that definition in mind has become one of the things I have been most thankful for lately in light of a couple of things that I am often tempted to follow too closely:
The “American Dream”: It really isn’t the ultimate goal…and it doesn’t have a Plan B. If my joy depends on moving from steps A to Z along my own plan and on my time by my own means, and I miss steps F,H,R,S,Q, and Y, then I don’t have joy. Thankfully, Jesus defines security for our future, all the way through to forever. Even along the way, he offers us the chance to follow his will. Whenever we miss a step in doing that, he’s always there to let us take the next one. That seems like joy to me!
The news: It is, more often than not, structured around the bad things that have happened. If crime or stocks or politics decide my joy, I’m riding a lifelong roller coaster, from one extreme to the other. Our identity in Christ goes way beyond what happens, where we live, or how we think about news or politics. It even goes beyond how much we do as Christians. The main part of our identity and the most important news is what Jesus has done for us…not the other way around. That seems like joy to me!
My prayer for us is to not let these two things take up more space and time in our brains than the truths about Jesus. There is some truth and some goodness to the ideas behind both of those things, but neither (and nothing else) is completely true and good like Jesus. That seems like joy to me!
First John 1:3-4 says “…that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our *joy* may be complete.”