We have too much to do, too little time to do it all, and far too many things that seem to sap our strength. In the midst of all this, we find ourselves as Christians being just plain miserable. We know that we are supposed to have some sort of happiness or "joy," but where is it? The little chorus says, "The joy of the Lord is my strength" but....WHERE IS IT? For most of us, the reality of daily life and all its demands are major hurdles that require every ounce of our faith just to get by. How in the world are we to have "joy?"
There are two ways to form a complete answer to that. The first, the NEGATIVE, points to behaviors and habits that sabotage our Christian lives. The list of these below is certainly not exhaustive, but it does go a long way toward showing us how we can be part of our own problem of experiencing joy by our own conduct. I am indebted to Army Chaplain Jim Stephen for this list:
1. Use "I" as often as possible.
2. Always be sensitive to slights.
3. Be jealous and envious.
4. Think only about yourself.
5. Trust no one.
6. Never forget a criticism.
7. Always expect to be appreciated.
8. Be suspicious.
9. Listen greedily to what others say of you.
10. Always look for faults in others.
11. Do as little as possible for others.
12. Shirk your duties if you can.
13. Never forget a service you may have rendered.
14. Sulk if people are not grateful for your favors.
15. Insist on consideration and respect.
16. Demand agreement with your own views on everything.
17. Always look for a good time.
18. Be selfish at all times.
Get it? One of the most certain paths to a "joy deficit" is to focus your life on yourself! There seems to be an underlying rule in life that if you spend all your time on yourself, your own wants and desires, and your own happiness----you insure that you WON'T have joy! A person who builds a life primarily based on self chooses an exceedingly uncertain foundation.
The second answer to the question, the POSITIVE, is found in the Scripture passage above. Notice that it deals with absolute reality --- the trials and tribulations of life. "Into every life, some rain must fall!" Difficulties and hardships are not the exclusive properties of Christians, though Christians may experience the pains of persecution and prejudice.
Peter explains to the early Christians in his day that the twin purposes of life's misery are to prove the genuineness of Christian faith and to illustrate to Christians enduring the pains that they are NOW experiencing the salvation of their souls. Imagine that! One's salvation is more than some hoped for commodity in the future --- it is a present reality in the midst of which we may love Jesus and believe in Him even as we have an "inexpressible joy!" Joy, then is not the product of positive circumstances or good outcomes in daily living. It is the believer's response to the present, daily reality of our sure salvation and faith in Jesus Christ!
In short, it is a matter of focus. Think of it like Christmas: If all you did was to look around the stable, you'd have stomach-turning smells, filthy surroundings hardly fit for human habitation, animals with no sense of sanitation, and unscheduled shepherd visitors from a class of people with whom no self-respecting person would associate. Ah.....but look in the food trough (the "manger"), and you'd see the Great Almighty God come down in human flesh to save us in our sins! Your reactions and emotions are framed by where you look!
So focus on the Lord Jesus this week and reflect on His present salvation in us! See if you don't find the rays of joy breaking out of your heart. And if you do.....let that joy infect others. We can all use a dose of joy! God bless you as you do!