Dear Christians, how is your JOY today?
I realize this question can seem to be too personal or seem condescending if you don’t know me – neither are my intent.
This is a question I have been asking myself and it’s helped me, so I figured it might help others too. That’s why I’m writing this today.
Now, I’m not asking if you smiled today. I’m not asking if you laughed at a funny meme. I am asking if you have joy.
The kind of joy I’m asking about is present despite the situation or scenario you are currently in. You know, you lose your keys and can laugh about it. The barista gives your drink to someone else and you have to wait 3 more minutes, making you late, again, but you still plan to have a good day. Joy that keeps you at peace when you hear something disappointing regarding one of your kids.
I’m talking about the joy that the old Sunday school song tells us about — “Joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart. Where? Down in your heart.”
I was reading today in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison, finding themselves in a troubling situation. They started to sing. I don’t know what they sang, but it probably wasn’t a song about haters hating and they should just shake it off – just saying.
While chained they made a decision to keep their joy and sing praise to God. The scenario was bleak. The odds were definitely against them. I’m sure when they woke up that morning they didn’t plan for the day to go this way, but here they were.
Yet, they had joy. The situation didn’t steal their song. Their attitude was still positive.
You likely know the rest of the story. The earth shakes as they praise <insert preacher joke of choice about God stomping His foot here> and the prison doors are open. The jailer freaks out cause he fears they all left. Then Paul and Silas lead him to Christ. And they all live happily ever after.
Okay, so I made that last part up, cause, spoiler alert, Paul dies eventually.
Here is what caught my eye about the story today:
“The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.”
Acts 16:34 NIV (http://bible.com/111/act.16.34.niv)
The man said yes to Jesus and joy filled his heart. Paul and Silas didn’t lose their joy and as a result this man became filled with joy.
What’s the common denominator? Here’s a hint, it was not because they all spent time in jail!
Jesus is the common denominator when it comes to real joy.
Do you remember when you gave your life to Jesus? You probably were quite joyful, even to the point of being a little giddy! Jesus fills us with joy!
As Christ-followers, I believe joy should be our calling card. Joy should be so noticeable in our lives – every day and in every situation.
Listen, you can fake a smile but you cannot fake joy. You can give a courtesy laugh but you can’t conjure up joy on your own. Joy is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It’s a by-product of Jesus reigning in our hearts and us surrendering to Him.
Quick side-note: those statement are in no way meant to condemn those who are struggling with depression or mental illness or downplay the seriousness of it. If that is you, I pray you find courage to reach out and receive some support. I’ve walked through it and know the toll it takes on your soul. God is bigger. Hope is alive and you can overcome this. Depression doesn’t have to define you or defeat you. Help is out there.
Joy is a choice. And most often in my experience, when my joy seems low, I know it’s time for a praise break. I find joy fills my heart when I choose to worship God.
Maybe it’s time you bust out some of those old Sunday school songs, download some new worship songs, or just make up something.
If you need joy, it’s time to worship God, spend some time with people who are joyful, hang out with kids for a while, talk a silly-face selfie with someone (see above), smile at someone, or just start laughing aloud (if feels weird at first, but it works).
Pro-tip: you might not want to try the last one while in your cubicle at work though.
Friends, we live in a world in desperate need of joy. We need to be filled with joy so it overflows in our life. Someone needs your joy today – don’t be stingy with it!
I pray that we can return to “the joy of our salvation.”