Although this popular hymn is familiar to us all, is there truth to be found in it after the holidays are over? What is joy, true joy? Can we experience joy all year long? Some assume that joy simply means to be happy. “If I am happy, then I will be joyful.” We link the two concepts together and mistakenly believe they are the same or equal to each other. We assume if one is true, then the other is true also. But is there more to joy than simply being happy? I believe so! Let me explain.
So often I base my day on how I am feeling. If I wake up and feel happy, then my actions follow how I am feeling. I can feel happy when I’ve gotten enough sleep, eaten a good meal, or had a good conversation with my spouse. I can also feel happy when I’ve paid the bills, cleaned the house, and accomplished everything on my “To Do” list. But although I may feel good inside about what is going on externally, I can easily become a prisoner to my circumstances. My emotions can change minute by minute, hour by hour depending on my day. Without knowing it, I have allowed my circumstances to dictate how I am feeling at any given moment.
What happens to my mind and my emotions when life doesn’t go as I had hoped or planned? Can I be joyful in the middle of a crisis, even when I don’t feel happy about what is going on around me?
I believe you can have joy despite your circumstances. Joy is a state of mind—a decision of will, a choice. It is NOT a description of position, resources, or circumstances. Joy has very little to do with feeling or emotion. On the contrary, it is a choice made regardless of feelings, rendering circumstances powerless to bankrupt. Joy is a deep inner sense of peace—a knowing or understanding that everything will be ok. Joy makes you happy on the inside.
David Wilkerson writes, “The Lord does not always calm the waters. He doesn’t always keep the floods from coming or put out the fires. Yet he does promise this! ‘I will walk with you through it all. This trial, or circumstance will not destroy you. It won’t consume you. So WALK ON. You will come out on the other side with me beside you.’ ” (See Isaiah 43!) It is a promise of joy that only God can give.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber;” (Psalm 121:1-3, NIV) Therefore, “DO NOT GRIEVE, for the JOY of the Lord, is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV)
Joy is directly connected to God. The Good News that God sent through His only son Jesus is a message of HOPE and RESTORATION. In Isaiah 61, Jesus tells us exactly what “Good News” God wants us to hear: (verses 1-4, 7 and 9)
- “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
- “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
- “[T]o proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve…
- “[T]o bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of JOY instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
- “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated…for generations.
- “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will REJOICE in your inheritance.
- “And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and EVERLASTING JOY will be yours.
- “All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”
The Good News of the Gospel gives us HOPE in the midst of our loss, pain and devastation. In return, God promises us EVERLASTING JOY regardless of our circumstances. That is really good news!
For it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NLT) Therefore, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest IF WE DO NOT GIVE UP.” (Galatians 6:9, NIV)
God’s promises are meant to ENCOURAGE us, stir up our FAITH, and fill us with HOPE —and hope brings with it a quiet CONFIDENCE and TRUST in God who directs our future. Joyce Meyer writes, “Hope bridges the gap between what your circumstances seem to be telling you and what your spirit knows to be true.” JOY is connected to God, not our circumstances!
Oh Lord, “Restore to me the JOY of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me!” (Psalm 51:12, NIV)