Have you ever been hanging out with a good friend… you know, someone you have known a long time and have a lot of history with… like you have had a lot of fun with and made memories and even some mistakes with? And whenever you hang with them it’s like no time has passed at all… you pick up right where you left off. That’s kind of friend I’m talking about.
But then one day, out of the blue, something changes. You begin to realize that this friend is a lot more annoying than you remembered. Honestly, they are kind of a downer and clearly not as fun as you remember. Everything they say is negative. Who knows, maybe you have grown, and they just haven’t yet. But, since you have so much history with this friend you can’t bring yourself to tell them you no longer want to hang out. Till one day they do something so negative and damaging that you have to say something. So you muster up the nerve to confront them and let them off easy… the only problem is… that friend… the friend you need to ditch… is YOU!
It’s never a fun thing to realize that you are your own problem, but the truth is that most of our problems can be pinpointed to what think about ourselves and others. This is especially true when it comes to the topic of joy. Ah that allusive joy. Where does it go and why can’t we seem to hold on to it?
The Source of Joy
A man named John write down the words of Jesus one day that help us understand the source of joy, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11 NIV)
Joy is a good feeling, or a feeling of good. It’s gladness, and cheerfulness. It is something that is sourced or provided by God, and it is also something you and I have to cultivate in order to experience it.
I love how Rick Warren defined it… “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” I think Rick stole that one part from Bob Marley, “Everything is gonna to be alright.”
Joy is that thing you sense in others that you just don’t understand but want to. When you see a person full of life and love and at the same time you know that their world is falling apart.
So Where Do We Find It?
I’m not going to lie, I have struggled to find joy lately. I’m sure I’m not alone these days. But, the problem is not with the source. The problem is with me and always is. Joy is not usually found in the place we think we will find it.
“I will have joy when…”
- I have that job I’ve always wanted
- I make X amount of money
- I get married
- I stay married
- I have a child, or another child
- I have a nice car
- I have a great body, or at least one I’m not embarrassed to walk around the beach with.
- When People think I’m great
- When people say good things about me
- People respect and appreciate me
All of these things aren’t evil, and you aren’t bad for wanting them. I’m just telling you that if you got everything you thought you needed to be OK, you will feel joy for a moment, but the joy Jesus gives is far greater and beyond anything we can manufacture through circumstances or pleasures. That joy is called conditional joy. Meaning, I will have joy if everything goes the way I want and think it should. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV) “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice (find joy) in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” The only thing that’s missing here is the mention of a cold beer and it would be a great country song!
Here’s the point: Joy isn’t out there; it lives inside of you and is produced by God!
Sometimes when we can’t find joy we fake it. Don’t fake it, Cultivate it! We have become so good at faking joy and happiness. Joy isn’t something you “fake it till you make it.” Joy is a byproduct (a fruit as Jesus described in John 15) that generates from the inside out as we love and hang with him. Joy is a reality that can be experienced. The path to joy is found in God’s presence and is cultivated through awareness and gratitude – through abiding in Jesus.
On the other hand, things like resentment, unforgiveness and pride are like putting a restrictor on your joy. It’s like someone gave you a Ferrari, which is amazing, but the only problem is that the person who gave it to you put a restrictor on it so you could only go 60 MPH. Joy isn’t about your circumstances otherwise joy would come and go 50x a day. Anyone can find, cultivate and experience joy… the only thing truly blocking joy is our own unwillingness to find and bring it to the surface.
Joy is found within… It’s an inside job!
I love coffee in the morning. It isn’t that coffee brings me joy (although I’m sure it could). No, what brings me joy is what coffee means to me… what it gives me – the gift it is. Coffee wakes me up. In the morning it is connected to quiet time with Jesus before anyone gets up. It’s about who I’m having the coffee with that brings me joy. We must spend time in his presence in order to access the joy already gifted us. AND we cannot mistake the things that allow us to experience joy with the source of joy itself.
You might be thinking, “Matt, are you telling me that finding joy is as simple as consistently hanging out with Jesus?” Yes, yes I am. The problem is never with Jesus, it’s us. We think that if I just pray and ask God for what we need, we will get it. The reality is that the more we hang with Jesus, we begin to wake up to the reality that we already have what we need in him. That even despite the worst of circumstances, you and I can experience love, joy and peace in his presence. As we abide we produce.