We encourage people to do a lot of finding nowadays. And not just your run-of-the-mill “finding” a dime on a street corner, but the existential kind of finding. Like finding your purpose in life, or finding true love, or, how about this one, finding joy in your circumstances.
And it’s that little encouragement that I want to zoom in on. “Find joy in your circumstances”.This phrase seems to get thrown around quite a bit, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. “Choose joy”, “You’ve got to find joy in the small things”… On the surface it sounds great, in some ways it almost sounds “Christian” because joy has become a bit of a buzzword in the Church.
But the question that ought to plague us when it comes to joy is this, “where do I actually find it?”
The world seems to want to convince itself that you can find joy in your circumstances. But any person with eyes can see that there are some pretty joyless circumstances. The loss of a job, the betrayal of a friend or spouse, the death of a loved one. If we’re honest, some very real and difficult things happen in our lives and if the only place for me to find joy is in my circumstances… then I’m hooped.
So where do we find joy? Well let me point you to one of the most famous passages about joy in the Bible, and what’s amazing is that we not only find joy here, but love, peace, patience, kindness… see where I’m going?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal 5:22-23)
Here’s what I want you to see. Real joy, and I’m talking about real, lasting, meaningful joy, is actually nowhere to be found except in Him.
This little verse tells us something wonderful about God. Out of His very being explodes joy! It just comes out of who He is. Notice that we’re not being told that the Holy Spirit and the believer work together to produce joy. No, no. Out of His very being comes joy. It’s a part of who He is.
In Psalm 16 David worships the Lord for His goodness to him. He praises God for the inheritance he enjoys, for the instruction he receives, and the security of his body. But it isn’t until the end of the Psalm that David’s crescendo of praise reaches its height when he says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is the fullness of joy…”
David knew that by God’s goodness and grace we experience all sorts of joy in our lives but that their final source was God Himself. So where would you expect the fullness of joy to be? The very presence of God. It’s who He is.
Now, I’d love to go on and on. Because we could look across the pages of Scripture, and even appeal to human reason to understand the fact that apart from God we could never experience true joy. Joy that reaches to the core of our being and steadies us with confidence, comfort, and hope. But I want to press us to a point of application.
If you want to experience joy, don’t go trying to see your circumstances in some special way that makes lemonade out of rocks. If you want to experience joy, go looking for God. Search His Word with a hungry heart. Pray with tears that you would know Him in a special way. And I’ll tell you this, what’s going to happen is that you’re going to find something better than joy. And that’s God Himself.