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.

Holy Spirit you are welcome here; Enjoying the presence of God

God and I have a good thing going. Our times together are amazing. There is nothing like someone as small and insignificant as I am being in the presence of the almighty God. It’s crazy!

In His presence, I have nothing to worry about. I can be totally vulnerable and naked with Him and still be completely loved and accepted. With God there is nothing to fear, nothing I have to hide, nothing to make me feel like I don’t belong, and nothing but His perfect peace.

There is nothing greater in this life than having a personal relationship with the almighty God. I talk with Him throughout the day. I spend time on my knees in worship and reverence to Him, and I have fallen in love with His Word.

He walks with me and He talks with me. He tells me I am His own.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!   1 John 3:1

He teaches me daily through prayer and scripture and the words He gives me to write.

My soul hungers and thirsts for more of Him. I can’t get enough. He is so beautiful and Jesus Walks On Waterthere is nothing like Him. I can’t explain how strong the longing is when I am not able to slow down and enjoy a quiet space with my Heavenly Father.

I have recently realized that my desire for Him has surpassed my desire for just about anything else in this life.

I long to be with Him more than romance, more than sexual ecstasy or a breathtaking vista. Time with Him is more precious than a good book on a crisp fall day, laughing with friends, the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, or a hot bath on a cold day. It is more precious than a great victory or achievement. It is more valuable than silver or gold.

I want to be alone with Him more than any earthly possession. Nothing compares to Him. When I think about what He did for me, nothing else matters.

“the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”  Matthew 13:45-46  

I have even found myself sitting in church wishing that I could be at home alone with Him in His Word. Nowhere else in my life do I experience the joy, peace and divine power within me like when I am communing with The Almighty. Sometimes I wish that I could stay there, just He and I, forever.

Splendor and majesty are [found] in His presence;
Strength and joy are [found] in His place (sanctuary).   1 Chronicles 16:27 (AMP)

A friend of mine recently attended a conference in which the theme was ‘spacious places’. They were talking about ‘spacious places’ not in terms of a ‘where’, but in terms of a ‘who.’ In other words, God is our spacious place. What a beautiful picture of God’s perfect peace. He is like a breath of fresh air filling our lungs.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.  Psalm 18:19

I don’t know if you experience euphoria and peace in your relationship with God or not. I don’t know if you long for Him more than anything else in this world. It’s okay if you don’t. We all have our own spiritual journeys. I haven’t always been where I am now with God.

The great thing is, everyone can have this awesome personal and intimate relationship with God. You can experience God in a more profound way if you so desire. I guarantee it! You can rest in his arms and enjoy His spacious places. You can be completely you. You are His beloved.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.   Jeremiah 29:13

Imagine a relationship with God so amazing that you get butterflies in your stomach when you are in His presence. Picture a worship experience so intense that you can physically feel Him move in you. Imagine being on your knees as God rains down healing, and the redemptive power of Jesus Christ over you.

Do we believe that our relationship with God can be so exciting and fulfilling and intimate that we desire Him more than we desire our husbands or wives, girlfriends or boyfriends, or even our children? 

“in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing . . . . . if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

God is so good. Everything that He has planned for you is good. And He delights in you greatly! He longs to be sought after, experienced and encountered in a powerful way, and to have an intimate relationship with each one of us.

The amazing love, grace and acceptance that He offers is worth more than anything we can find on this earth. And, He gives it freely.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him  Psalm 34:8

God is easy, because of His amazing grace.

People, on the other hand, are not. I often think that I would be the perfect Christian if it weren’t for other people.

Things are so good in God’s presence. It is a perfect space, and I never want to leave. But when you add other human beings to the mix, things get messy.

I know that I am to love and serve others. I am not resisting that. Those are not the people that I am talking about necessarily.

I am talking about the people that are more involved in our lives. Those that disappoint us, judge us, make demands on us, don’t understand us, or have wronged us. I am talking about people who bring out the hurts, jealousy, and discouragement in us.

Some people bring out the worst in us.

I am much more blameless and upright before God in isolation. Isn’t it enough to deal with my own sin and brokenness? But to pile on the sin and brokenness of everyone else sometimes seems overwhelming.

 . . . . . yet, not my will but Yours be done   Luke 22:42

The whole point of this life is ‘people’. I can’t get around it. I can’t go over or under it. I can’t look past it. I can’t please God without loving and caring for the people He has put in my life. He has made that very clear in scripture. But, I admit, that sometimes I really wish that I could.

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”   Mark 12:31

I ask for forgiveness in this area of my life all the time. I know this attitude toward other people is not pleasing to God. He wants me to love and serve others generously and joyfully. But, He is so gracious. He is the God of second chances . . . and third . . . . and fourth!

It all comes down to this, sometimes we have to do the hard stuff. The stuff that we don’t want to do. It’s not about us, it’s about Him. We have to accept all of God’s words, or none of them.

But, that is ok with me. I am eternally in His debt. The joy and worth that I get from Him is beyond words; beyond explanation. My cup overflows, and I don’t deserve any of it. Praise be to God, for He is good!

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.   Psalm 16:11