Joy in the Knowing

Pops of joy. Bursts of light. A rush of excitement that travels up and down my spine. Moments of hope. Reminders of redeeming grace.

Moments of complete satisfaction come, accompanied by joy. Moments of pure light. Moments of the precious presence of the Father. But they are only moments. They quickly fade like the evening sun.

What does stick around, however, is the cold, hard, reality of life.

If our joy is honest joy, it must somehow be congruous with human tragedy. This is the test of joy’s integrity: is it compatible with pain? . . . Only the heart that hurts has a right to joy.  ~Lewis Smedes

Joy was the topic in a sermon series about the fruit of the spirit at my church.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Galatians 5:22-23

Everything about the Gospel is about love. And we are instructed to love above all else. Of course it is first. Love is central to our faith.

I find it interesting that joy is listed second. Why would joy be put in such an important position? I pondered the thought.

Recently in a conversation, I found myself saying that I wasn’t sure if I was capable of joy anymore. My life has been complicated and messy and I have experienced numerous losses. . . like most people have.

And, I don’t do joy very well. I never have.

So, I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to study joy.

We all know that we are supposed to rejoice in our suffering.

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope  Romans 5:3,4

And always be joyful.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Knowing my current state of joylessness led me to feeling guilty. I wasn’t feeling joyful. I wasn’t rejoicing in suffering. I wasn’t being obedient. Or, so I thought.

Not only was I not joyful, but I was in more turmoil because of the guilt. So, in the spirit of Yoda from Star Wars, study joy, I did.

What is joy anyway? How do I know that I am not being joyful?

What if most of us have a wrong understanding of joy? What if joy and happiness are not the same thing?

Happiness comes from the root word, “happening.” Therefore, happiness is based on what happens to us. Any number of things can make us happy. At least temporarily.

  • getting married
  • having a baby
  • fulfilling your calling in life
  • being successful

If I get a lot of likes on Facebook or Twitter, it makes me happy. Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks make me happy. Meeting a friend for coffee makes me happy. And, finishing writing my book will definitely make me happy!

Joy, on the other hand, is not the same as happiness. According to author Tim Hansel in his book, You Gotta Keep Dancin’,”happiness is a feeling, joy is an attitude.”

He goes on to say, “(joy is) . . . A posture. A position. A place.”

Wow. That hit me like a ton of bricks.

If joy is an attitude, what is my posture? What is my position? What is my place?

Joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life. ~Paul Sailhamer

Like love, joy is not simply a feeling or an emotion. It is so much more. It is a choice.

In the Greek, joy is translated more specifically as gladness or delight.

And, according to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, delight means, a high degree of gratification of mind. In other words, satisfaction.

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

Then there is this curious verse in Hebrews.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

How could enduring the cross be considered joy?

One commentary I read said the word joy in this context is referring to the joy of Christ’s accomplished purpose and the glory with which He was crowned.

The joy that Christ is talking about could be His knowing. Knowing that He created a way for salvation; knowing that this one event offered hope to the world; knowing that God’s purposes were being fulfilled.

He wasn’t looking forward to the insults and mobs crying out for His death. He wasn’t looking forward to the flogging and the crown of thorns. He wasn’t looking forward to being hung on a cross.

But, it was the joy set before Him.

Could my joy be in the knowing? Could my joy be knowing that I have been given life when I deserve death? Could my joy be knowing that Christ has made a way for me? Could my joy be knowing that He is preparing a place for me in glory?

Joy is simple (not to be confused with easy). At any moment in life we have at least two options, and one of them is to choose an attitude of gratitude, a posture of grace, a commitment to joy.  ~You Gotta Keep Dancin’

Could it be that I am joyful? Could it be that I can take that off the list of things to beat myself up about?

I am filled with gladness and I do delight in the Lord. I am overwhelmed  with the magnitude of what was accomplished on the cross. I am immensely grateful for the redeeming power of grace that I have been freely given. And I feel the Holy Spirit working in me.

I know Him who saved me. Therefore, I have joy.

Do I feel happy and wonderful most of the time? No. Life is hard. God makes it clear in scripture that it will be. But, do I have joy? Maybe I do.

As a follower of Christ, I can see the big picture. God has given it to us in His Holy Word. And I know the joy that awaits me.

So maybe God put joy second on the list of the fruit of the spirit on purpose. Love and joy are the greatest gifts from the Father. Because if we know Him, we will have joy.

Joy is in the knowing.

3 Things that will make you ‘the weird one’ at church

There are certain things in life that one just has to make peace with. Certain things that just are. Like death and taxes, there are some things that never change.

I’m the weird one. I always have been, and I always will be. And I have made peace with it. I know where I belong. And, it isn’t here.

I recently learned there is a name for people that tend to rock the boat and stir things up; people who tend to disrupt the regular flow of how things typically work. They are the ones that question everything; the ones that are not content with the status quo. They are called ‘disrupters’.

Oh yeah, I am definitely one of those! Disrupters are definitely the weird ones!

I have found that there are 3 things that will make you the ‘disrupter’ or ‘the weird one’ at church.

1. You don’t live by the mantra, ‘family first’

How many times have you heard the phrase ‘family first’? We see it on commercials and public service announcements almost everyday. We read about it in blog posts, and articles. It has become a popular mantra in our society.

Too often, though, I hear it in church as well.

“Do I spend more time focusing on being a good spouse and parent, or more time focusing on being a godly person?” – Lisa Chan, You and Me Forever

Most of the churches I have encountered, seem to believe that family comes first. it’s all about family. As I hear this being spoken at church, I have to wonder if the person speaking it realizes what he or she is saying.

The American church has made family an idol.

God must always come first. And, not only should He come first, there shouldn’t be a closefamily first second. Nothing should come close to God in our lives.  

Of course, family is important, but it should never come first in our lives. That spot should always belong to God. He won’t share His position with anyone or anything; not even our family.

When Christ said how we are to love God, He didn’t mean after we love our family first.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

And surprisingly, even though we put families on a pedestal, there are just as many divorces inside the church as there are outside. Maybe if we realized that family doesn’t come first, and put God back in His rightful place, this wouldn’t be the case.

We must put God over our families, the way He intended. Only then can our families be healthy and strong. If we put God first, then the family will be as it should be, UNDER His Lordship. 

2. You are not always happy

When someone at church asks me how I am, a million thoughts go through my mind, but I know that I am expected to be ‘fine’. If you say something other than ‘fine’, you will be the weird one. We are supposed to be fine, not real!

Recently my Sunday school class started a video series. The title of it was ‘What Makes You Happy?’ For some reason Christians seem to think that they should be happy. I am always perplexed by this. 

My husband and I are not big fans of doing a video series and I am not a fan of talks on happiness. So, I was doodling a barfing face on the handout (I know – real mature!). 

The word happiness rubs me the wrong way like the wrong string in a guitar chord. What is happiness? defines it as good fortune; pleasure; contentment; or joy.

Should we strive for good fortune?
Should we strive for pleasure?
Should we strive for contentment?
Should we strive for joy?

One can argue either way for each of these. In and of themselves, none of these are bad things. God is good and wants good things for us.

Not always happyDoes God want us to have good fortune? Yes, but in eternity with Him, not in this life. We are not to be focused on our good fortune on earth. We need to strive to love and glorify God whether it brings us good fortune or bad.

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”   Luke 12:15

Does God want us to experience pleasure? Yes, I believe He does. However, He does not want us to strive for personal pleasure, it should flow from a close walk with Him.

He who loves pleasure will become a poor man.   Proverbs 21:17

Does God want us to be content? Well, content with what? Does God want us to be content with Him? Absolutely! However, He does not desire for us to be content with everything. Jesus was not content with everything.

“He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”   John 2:15-16

We shouldn’t be content with sin. We shouldn’t be content with the status quo, if that means a church that is lukewarm. We shouldn’t be content with a country that has turned its back on God. And, we shouldn’t be content with people not knowing Christ.

God wants us to be content with Him, while at the same time discontent with the things of this world; things that are not pleasing to Him.

Does God want us to experience joy? I can’t write a YES big enough for this one! He desires for us to have complete joy in Him. Joy is big. His joy is HUGE!

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.   John 15:11

However, joy is very different than happiness.

3. You seek depth

There are a lot of fun activities at churches; jam sessions, bingo night, worship night, Vacation Bible School, Wednesday night dinners, Zoomba, and small group ‘speed dating’, just to name a few. Social activities at church are fun.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for fun. I love fun as much as the next person! However, fun can’t be all that is happening at church.

I used to be in a specific group at my church. It was a blast! We all loved to get together and do what we loved most. We had such a good time. But we weren’t challenging each other to grow in Christ, we were enabling each other to just have fun.

seeking-spiritual-truthAt a certain point, I started to notice things. Our conversations weren’t necessarily ‘holy’. We never talked about anything spiritual. And, it didn’t seem to me like most of the people were there to glorify God. They were there because they loved what we were doing, and they wanted to hang out with their friends.

God pulled me away from this group. As a result, I am now able to participate in another group where we do grow spiritually. And, where we do challenge each other.

Life with Christ isn’t meant to be lived on the surface. There if a whole ocean below if we are willing to dive in. Jesus challenges us to . . . . “put out into deep water” (Luke 5:4).

Truly following Christ can result in grief, sorrow, or depression, as well as extreme joy and rejoicing. With these intense emotions comes a necessary depth. And once you go down to the deep, you will never be satisfied with the shore again.

If you are ‘the weird one’ at your church, you’re not alone. There are millions of ‘weird ones’ all over the world. One could say that Jesus was ‘the weird one’ of His day. So, you are in good company! 

Follow Christ. Study His Word. Never compromise, even if it means being ‘the weird one’.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Are you the weird one?