I Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
Definition: Joy - (Greek) “Awareness of God’s grace; Grace recognized."
Ever been going through a hard time and someone says, “Count it all Joy my friend”.
Unfortunately, this Christian sentiment can often feel invalidating. There is something dismissive when others use this truth of scripture to shame suffering or diminish our disappointment and defeat. James did not write these words to instruct his readers to "enjoy” trials, but rather to encourage believers to reframe their purpose amidst pain.
When I was younger I believed joy to be a mindset of happy feelings which at times felt internally conflicting, as my discouragement demanded to be felt. I questioned if joy and pain could coexist.
Here is what I learned:
Joy is not found in ignoring the pain of our past.
Joy is not found in minimizing the losses in life.
Joy is not found in forcing happy feelings.
Joy is not found in smiling when we feel like sobbing.
This week, I have been pressing into what it truly means to “Count it all joy” and have my joy be made complete. Looking at Philippians 1, the term “Rejoice” is repeated in reference to Paul's challenging experiences for the sake of the gospel.
“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (1v18-19).
Then again in Philippians 4:4 he writes,
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
He also writes in 1 Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (5v16-18).
We could look through passage after passage that invites us to experience unexplainable joy and fullness but the question is:
how do we begin to embrace this life and its limits with a spirit of contentment that is produced through deep-seated joy?
I think the best place to start in this study on Joy, is to clarify the biblical definition of this fruit of the Spirit. The word joy, in the English language, is associated with feelings of happiness and pleasure. Yet, as wonderful as these feelings may be, they are not descriptive of the type of joy the Bible speaks of as one of the Spirit’s seeds of sanctification.
When we begin to read verses like the ones mentioned above with the English definition of “joy” in mind, we set ourselves up for failure,
...Because joy is not founded on feelings.
Rather, biblical joy, finds its roots in the Greek word “Chara” which means, “awareness of god’s grace”, and it shares the same root as the word rejoice, which means, “to delight or be glad in grace”. This mindset is one which intentionally displays gratitude for God’s goodness and grace.
It is this kind of joy that Paul found in saying,
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength”(4v12-13).
Boy does this change my perspective on joy and its availability to change my focus. Much like the Spirit’s outpouring of love, joy is similar, absorbing the nutrients that are offered and available in its roots. So let's dig deep and plant roots.
Truth #1 - Joy Magnifies God’s Grace
What to experience God's grace?
To cultivate joy in our lives, we must develop our awareness of God’s grace.
When we acknowledge our need for grace and openly receive it, we take hold of the hope of healing. This introspection positions us in our proper place before God. Grace is difficult to accept. It is undeserved and therefore we struggle with either not feeling our need for grace or not believing in the gift of grace.
Friend, take hold of the gospel of grace. For in God's goodness, He forgives our sins and grants us access to His inheritance, eternal life!
I think this first truth is foundational as it anchors us to the truth that although life circumstances change, God’s grace is a guarantee. Paul writes in Ephesians 1,
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,
to the praise of his glory” (V13-14).
I am learning that in every season of life, I can find gratefulness and contentment when I remember the cost of my salvation and sacrifice of my Savior.
Truth #2 -Joy Brings Purpose to Pain
What to experience purpose even when life is painful?
James 1 is the infamous passage that speaks about joy and trials.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (v2-3).
These verses are frequently quoted in times of challenge, yet I feel as though the hope found in James’ message is frequently missed. James' words challenge us to be aware of God’s grace even within our trials. I believe this perspective can change the way we look at pain. James encourages his readers to be conscious of God’s goodness towards them by providing them trials of various kinds. You might be thinking, How do trials translate to God’s grace?
The passage explains that trials (although difficult) have an invaluable purpose, the testing of our faith. James is saying here, “Hey, when pain is present, lean in, knowing that God, in His grace, will use it purposely.”
1 Peter 1:6-9 remarks on the purpose found in pain saying,
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.
God uses the hard things, the heavy things, to refine our souls, strengthen our faith, and test our testimony. Keep pressing in to pursue God’s purpose and promise.
Truth #3 Joy Produces Perseverance
What to experience the power of God’s presence?
James 1 also talks about the process of producing “steadfastness”. “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (v2-3).
This process of allowing steadfastness to have its full effect is KEY. One commentator explained this concept of the production of perseverance as necessary to the spiritual journey. He liked it to that of a telescope, which must be extended to find its full focus.
This is what a joyful mindset produces in our lives. As we embrace trials, we train our souls to reach the capacity of our effectiveness in spiritual maturity.
Simply put, WE GROW.
If we never faced failure and friction in our lives we would never move forward in our faith. Paul explains this in Romans 5:3-5 saying,
“ Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
I pray that we may continue to sit in these spaces with an assurance that God is using every season of our lives to strengthen our souls.
Truth #4 Joy Sustains the Soul
What to experience sustainment for your soul?
One theologian explains the importance of choosing the source of joy saying,
“ Whatsoever we make necessary for our contentment, we make lord over our happiness.” (MacLaren Commentary). I find this so profound and thought-provoking.
What have I made necessary or my contentment? Is it my career, my desire for children, or my hope of heaven?
I think we all relate that more often than not our contentment finds its source in things other than our Savior. In doing so, we place these things as the sources of our sustainment. This in many ways leaves us feeling discontent and unsatisfied because the source of our joy can never be found in our circumstances.
Over the past year, the Lord has been teaching me that I MUST reevaluate my values and place the promises of God over my personal preferences.
THIS IS HARD.
It means entrusting my soul to the one who promises abundant life. In doing so, I must trust what Jesus says in John 10:10, that He desires to grant me life, and life
more abundantly than I could even imagine for myself.
Peter puts it this way: “Therefore, let those who suffer according to Gods will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (I Peter 4:19)”.
Peter doesn’t say, entrust your soul and your faithful Creator will give you everything you ever wanted. Rather, with a victorious faith, press on and press into God’s will.
I desire to daily entrust my soul to the one who has overcome the world, so that I may be able to say, I count it all joy.
May our source of joy always be Jesus!