In 2014 I have made a little pet-project of studying joy – pursuing it, if you will.
On one hand it’s a little hard to pursue joy because joy is not really an end in and of itself – it’s something that happens along the way.
But on the other hand, joy is a choice, an eternal gift like love and peace and goodness and kindness. Joy is also a command (Psalm 47:1; Philippians 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:16).
Joy is not happiness, mind you, which cannot be attained in anything like the same manner – but… a certain amount of happiness often accompanies joy.
There are lots of verses that tie joy to hope and to being in the presence of God (Psalm 40:16; Psalm 89:15-18; Proverbs 10:28; Romans 15:13).
I’m still pretty early in my study/pursuit, but I am finding that joy is tied to being with God in the place he called you to be – obeying moment by moment even in the hard stuff.
Joy is that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens…. Joy is our wholehearted response to whatever opportunity is given to us at any moment.
— David Steindl-Rast
There are some days it takes a certain amount of effort to choose to look at what’s happening as an opportunity rather than a disaster.
- when the hormonal roller coaster of teens and tweens throws my plans for the day off the track
- the day the fifth child comes down with the stomach bug
- the morning I wake to snow on our freshly planted spring flowers
- the evening a friend calls in desperate need of counsel and I choose to take the call and cancel other plans
- a delayed appointment which interrupts my perfectly laid plans for our school day
- running out of bread on a day we have no time to go to the store
- a child with a concussion from falling out of the tree
These are just a sampling of the things which interrupt my plans, things that threaten to capsize my heart and set me desperately floundering to stay afloat.
But God tells me my joy, my peace, my hope is not in circumstances working out as I planned, but in trusting in his plans which could look much different than I’m expecting – in embracing the opportunities he lavishes on me in unexpected ways.
Sometimes I miss it. I don’t recognize the opportunity so I miss out on joy. I don’t accept the interruption as a divine appointment so I forfeit joy. I don’t see the turn in the road on my map, I refuse to check it with God’s GPS, and I end up at the dead end of my joy.
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
— Psalm 16:11
He promises peace, hope, and joy – but on his path, in his presence, with his pleasures.
The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.
— Julian of Norwich
It is as I draw close to God, as I walk according to the Spirit, as I abide in his love and learn to desire what he desires, as I take what comes from his hand with utter confidence in his goodness that I see the fullness of joy.