I Have Joy

Radiant Joy

Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. – Psalm 34:5 HCSB

Ever see a girl in love? Eyes bright, smile huge, face…radiant. Love has a distinctive way of painting a face with joy.

Why is she glowing? Why does she float through life like she’d spouted invisible wings?

Because she’s happy. She’s with the one who makes her heart flutter and sing, who loves everything about her. Life is good. Perfect. And nothing will douse the glow of her love.

Be good if that were an ever-after story, wouldn’t it? Every one of us married gals would twirl through life without a care in the world. Nothing would erase the everlasting smile from our lips. No harsh words would pass between us and our beloved. There would never be long nights flooded with bitter tears. Never a cold shoulder. Love would just make everything rosy.

Not so much. I’ve got a good marriage, and still I know the difference between reality and fairytales, and that one has Disney written all over it.

But the Bible is not a book of fairytales. It’s peppered with hard stories—stories with an adult rating on them. Stories of real people, broken families, wandering hearts, and deceitful men. Yet in the middle of this Book, King David—a fragile man himself—wrote these words:

I will praise the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the LORD; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim Yahweh’s greatness with me; let us exalt His name together. I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.

Stranger still, he likely wrote that while in hiding from a mad-man. David knew disappointment. Knew betrayal. Knew failure. He knew all this by the hands of others, and he knew it by his own doing. And yet he writes, “those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.” How can he say that?

Because, despite the fact that David didn’t always live a fairytale life, his God never failed. Never failed. LOVE doesn’t, you know. It bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things.

Joy like that? It’s the radiant kind.

I Have Joy

For the Joy Set Before Us

Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 HCSB

Jesus didn’t take a clean, quick bullet for me. Those soldiers tortured Him to death while the crowd mocked and humiliated him.  Crucifixion is absolutely the most awful way to die.  And yet, Jesus endured it – every excruciating hour of it —  for the joy set before Him.

That must be some mighty strong joy to make such a death endurable. And keep in mind, Jesus was far from being a helpless prisoner who had no other choice.  He was God in human flesh.  At any point in the process, He could have excused Himself from the torture.  He could have sizzled the soldiers, called down the angels and escaped.  He chose to stay there – endured it – for the joy set before Him.

Which makes me wonder – what sort of joy was He anticipating?

I think it was at least partly the joy of fellowship. His death paid the final price for sin, making it possible for humans to finally have unhindered relationship with God.  Finally, God and his creatures could walk together again with no barriers between them, just like they did in the garden before Adam and Eve sinned.  Jesus was looking forward to that sweet fellowship with us.

Jesus must also have been looking forward to sitting down at God’s right hand. When Jesus became our sin, God turned His back.  I think Jesus was anticipating the joy of reunion with His Father.

Could it also have been the joy of a job well done? The kind of joy that a runner sets his mind on in the last mile of a marathon?  “Every muscle in my body is stinging, I am craving rest and water, yet I will run on because I want the satisfaction of knowing I finished this race.  That future joy is more important than this present pain.”

Hebrews 12 calls us to imitate Jesus – to set our eyes on future joy. Imagine how amazing it will be to finally step into the splendor of Heaven and see God Himself. Think of the wonder of it – how incredible will it be to have a conversation with Jesus face to face?  Then, we will look back on our lives – and the endurance it took to live them – and realize “Yeah.  This was so totally worth it.”

May we endure, for the joy set before us.

 

 

I Have Joy

Joy In Trials?

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – Jas 1:2-4 NASB

Consider your trials joy…Hmm. Weird. That’s how most would respond to James’s instructions, right? What are we, nuts?

Now, wait, I think I took that out of context. Let me see if I can cut that into bite size, chewable pieces. I’ll use a recent encounter, and maybe then it’ll make more sense.

Not so long ago, I discovered a betrayal by one whom I’d considered a friend—still do. I admire this person, trusted them, and they’d let me down. Not just in a disappointing way, but in an ouch, that kind-of broke my heart way. Tears rolled the morning after I found this out, and continued as the day wore on, but God brought this passage in James to my attention.

Consider it all joy….  Still scratching my head. Where’s the joy in this?

The testing of your faith produces endurance…

In verse five, James continues his directions with something that seems like quite a switch. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.

Left turn? No. A hint. Follow this…as I worked in my kitchen through the late morning, I wrestled with the situation. “Jesus, I don’t understand how this pain can be considered joy. Will you help me with it?”

Do you know? He answered. With generous abundance, He gave new insight, and used that fresh wound to show me things about myself and about him. He used that experience to mold a portion of my heart. So (hopefully) I can be more like Christ.

In that, there is great joy.

I Have Joy

Joyful Strength

“ … Your strength comes from rejoicing in the Lord.” Nehemiah 8:10

This morning, I frantically tried to rush my daughter out the door. We were both tired. We were late.  And I was snappy.  Then, she cracked a joke.  It was so unique that I put down my hairbrush and just laughed.  Hard.  It wasn’t just because what she said was funny, but because this particular girl, my beloved daughter, had the creativity to come up with it.  Both the joke and the person delighted me. I adore that 11-year-old!  And as I contemplated how much I loved her, I stopped feeling annoyed.  My tiredness was suddenly not so heavy.  And we had a lovely morning together.

God wants me to rejoice in Him in exactly that way – to be delighted with His personality. He wants me to take my eyes off my frantic schedule and put them on His Person, to meditate on all the ways he is adorable.  He goes so far to say that this rejoicing in Him is my strength.

But so often, I don’t do that. I am too busy seeking what I want from God to seek God Himself.  I have a long list of prayer requests that, if granted, would really make my life easier.  And, while I wait for Him to comply, I busily run to and fro trying to fix things myself, worrying over this problem, trying to solve that one. …  It’s exhausting.  So, I try to ease the fatigue with a movie, a milk shake, an outing with my family.  Those things are nice, but they don’t provide lasting comfort.

What truly restores my soul? Delighting in God.  Rejoicing in Who He is – not what He has or has not done for me.  I loved that moment with my daughter this morning because of who she is, not because of any gift she’s given me.  We were still late.  The schedule didn’t change.  But, it didn’t matter anymore, because we were together.

When my life is not ideal, let me focus on my life Partner, the God who will never leave me nor forsake me. When I don’t get the answer I want after I pray, let me delight in the God of all Wisdom.  Let me revel in His company and the many wonders of His personality.  Rejoicing in Him is my strength.

I Have Joy

I have Joy: A Joint Post

You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; in your right hand are eternal pleasures. –Psalm 16:11, HCSB

From Jen:

Got JOY?

Joy…seems it’s been reduced to a Christmas ornament. If you add bright red paint and glitter to some wood letter cut outs, then you must really have joy. Or want it.

But joy? JOY? It isn’t seasonal. It doesn’t come out of a gift card store, doesn’t smell like evergreen boughs, and isn’t something the amazing Mr. Bing Crosby can sing into your heart. Joy isn’t a pleasure that melts in your mouth like a Dove chocolate bar, it doesn’t start with a key and purr like a kitten inside that new car sitting in the garage. Joy has deeper roots than stuff, runs with a stronger current than laughter, and lasts longer than a happy moment.

Joy is a gift, but it doesn’t leave the giver’s hand. Joy remains with Him, secure in His right hand.

So how do you get it?

From Susan:

My sheep hear my voice. …No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all.  No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” John 10:27-30

I get it by living life in God’s hand. God holds joy. God holds me.  So therefore, I have joy.  That does not, however, mean I’m always happy.  Tragedy, sin, frustration or just a plain old bad day can trample on my emotions.  Joy is deeper than happiness.  It is a sense of well-being, of knowing I am in God’s hand, of believing that no matter what assails me here, the there will be more than worth it.

I have a missionary friend who died of cancer this summer, leaving a widow just my age.  My friend passed from this earth to heaven without ever leaving God’s hand.  His widow, clearly nestled in God’s hand even in her grief, posted this on Facebook last week.  The italics are a passage she quoted.  The bold words are her own:

When we stand back to consider the premise – that God owes us a good life – it is clearly unwarranted. If there really is an infinitely glorious God, why should the universe revolve around us rather than around him? – Tim Keller But what underserved joy there is when our universe revolves around Him.