Looking for the Joy of the Lord
Jane Clamp helps us to find some of that joy that Jesus promises to bring us.
Some years ago, Will Smith starred in a film called "The Pursuit of Happyness" (complete with the unusual spelling). It’s an excellent story, but it’s the title that grabs me more. Couldn’t that be the motto of our culture and generation? Don’t we go after happiness as one of life’s chief goals? We sacrifice all kinds of things for it: relationships, commitments, jobs and church. All can be picked up or dropped if we consider they don’t make us happy.
Interestingly, according to the NIV Concordance, there are only nine references to “happiness” in the Bible, whereas there are four whole columns dedicated to “joy.” So, what’s the difference? I think I would best define joy as a kind of happiness that doesn’t come and go according to circumstances, but endures – whatever is going on.
Joy has often been a tricky issue for me. I remember once going up for prayer at the end of a service and simply asking for joy. It wasn’t that I was particularly unhappy or dissatisfied with life. I only knew that something was missing and I wanted it. Sadly, as I went back to my seat, I still didn’t feel I had found it.
Back in Sunday School days, I was taught that joy stood for “Jesus – Others – Yourself.” Put Jesus first in your life – and yourself squarely last – and you will find joy. It sounded good, but it missed the mark. What I wish my Sunday School teacher had said was that when you invite Jesus into your life, He comes laden with all sorts of wonderful benefits, and joy is one of them.
She should have told me that joy would arrive with Jesus and then develop and grow as part of the fruit of the Spirit – and remember that fruit grows naturally, without striving. To think of all the effort, anxiety and energy (and time in prayer queues) I’ve wasted looking for joy in the wrong places. I had it all the time and didn’t realise!
I now know that the bigger issue is that I need to make sure that I safeguard the joy He has already put within me. When trouble strikes and brings with it anxiety and stress and tiredness, we might lose our sense of well-being but we needn’t lose our joy. Indeed, the Bible tells us “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”
With His joy bubbling up inside, we can surely face whatever lies ahead today.
The image above is courtesy of https://pixabay.com
Jane Clamp is Creative Writer in Residence on the Sunday Breakfast Show at BBC Radio Norfolk and on the Thought of the Day team at Premier Christian Radio. An active member of the Association of Christian Writers, she is editing a second novel, and in her spare time works as an interior designer and musician.
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