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I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11, NIV
The joy of the Lord is the portion of His children. Yet many either do not appear to have that joy or have seemed to have lost it. Why is that? I am going to break it down into two misconceptions and several actual killers.
The first misconception is that many people have a hard time of actually thinking of Jesus as being a Man of joy. Very rarely do you see artists depictions of Jesus smiling. We often read the Gospels with the presupposition that Jesus was stern and serious constantly. We envision the Man of Sorrows all the time. Yes, Jesus was called the Man of Sorrows. Yes, He experienced grief and pain to depths that we will never know. But the opposite of that is that He also experienced the heights of joy. He said He was giving us His joy…not much of a gift if He didn't have any Himself! Think about it. Does your conception of Jesus need an adjustment? [There are actually two very good videos which show Jesus as a Man of joy. One is called Matthew and is put out by the International Bible Society. It is actually just a dramatization of the Scripture with nothing added. The other is a multi-episode series which is more historical fiction blending the real events of the life of Jesus with fascinating backstories for the people He interacted with. In it you will see a Jesus who smiles, laughs and has a sense of humour. Search for The Chosen on your phone app.]
The second misconception is over what joy actually is. If you equate joy with happiness and expect to be on an emotional high all the time, then you will be disappointed. You are looking at a wrong definition of joy. There is nothing wrong with happiness, but it comes and goes with the circumstances of life. Joy is meant to be constant in the ups and downs of life. Joy will, at times, be full of great rejoicing, but at other times it will be the quiet peace and confidence that Jesus is in control working out everything for our good and to conform us to His image.
What are some of things that kill joy or limit our experience of it?
It is easy to speak negative words, usually when emotions are running high. We can criticize others or ourselves. Words are the building blocks of the spirit. With them we are either building strongholds for enemy or palaces for the King. What are your words like? Are you an encourager? Or are you always running down governments, employers, policies, friends, enemies or even yourself? It is impossible to experience joy if you are spewing garbage out of your mouth all the time
We all face frustrations in different ways and over different things. Sometimes our work frustrates us, sometimes it is our home, our level of income, our children, anything. Frustration generally happens because things are not working out the way WE want them to. People or circumstances are stopping our goals and desires. We either cannot see a way around it or we realize that it is going to be harder and longer than we anticipated. We all face frustrations, but if we mediate on them, complain about them and refuse to or reluctantly work out solutions they will suck our joy dry.
It is so easy to complain, but God hates complaining. He wants to see a thankful heart. Complaining will zap our energy, weaken our enthusiasm and leave us without joy. Try to listen to yourself speak for a couple of days. How much of your conversation is complaining? I know I still have work to do! If you have a challenge with being thankful in your life, you may want to sign up for our 90 Days of Thanksgiving emails. Develop an attitude of thanksgiving. Jesus has done so much for us.
Bad things happen to us in life. Sometimes people are deliberately hurtful and other times they are unaware that what they said or did was painful to us. These hurts are wounds, some are very deep. However, it is our choice whether we allow them to become infected with bitterness or whether we cleanse them with forgiveness. If we choose to walk in unforgiveness it will, most likely, not bother the person who hurt us, but it definitely will steal our joy and work toward our destruction.
If we are taking advantage of others, rather that loving and serving them, it will kill our joy. Joy comes from loving service. If we are devaluing others through lust, greed, self-centredness, etc. even in our minds without outward actions, our joy will seep away.
For the Christian, sin is always a choice. God, through His Holy Spirit and Word, has given us the power to say, “No.” When we choose to walk in deliberate sin of any kind, it brings a separation in our relationship with Jesus and steals our joy. The solution, when we do fall into sin, is to return immediately to Jesus, confess our sin and receive His forgiveness. Our relationship and joy will be restored. Of course, God knows if this is simply a ploy to attempt to have the “best” of both worlds or genuine repentance.
I am sure there are more joy-killers, but these represent some of the most obvious ones that many of us struggle with. It is so easy to complain and give in to frustration. More and more I am realizing the importance of our thoughts and controlling them. It is vitally important as soon as we realize that one of these joy-killers is trying to worm its way into our mind [or we catch ourselves in the act] that we stop it immediately with praise, worship and thanksgiving. If we indulge in these thoughts by promoting them through self-talk [the conversations we have with ourselves in our own minds], talking to others, or simply refusing to turn from them, they will grow. Their destructive, joy-killing power will grow and become harder and harder to stop. We must take control as soon as we realize the wrong direction we are taking.
Jesus wants His joy to be in us. He has perfect joy because He walked in perfect obedience. We are perfect in position before God because of Jesus so we can experience His joy, after all, it is one of the fruits of the Spirit Who lives within us. Let us choose to say “NO” to the joy-killers and “YES” to following hard after Jesus.