Kill Joy

The word “Joy” has always fascinated me. It’s so rich and larger than life. Paul’s book of Philippians drips with it, as honey from a comb, yet it was written while he was in a Roman prison cell. Peter speaks of glorious, inexpressible joy, when referring to the salvation of our souls, despite the earthly trials that come our way.[1]

From a Biblical stand point, joy has a captivating sweetness about it which seems to transcend our worldly experience. How else could prison and trials be associated with joy? Yet joy can be elusive?
Joy is one of the qualities of the Spirit of God, but how is it expressed in our earthly experience?

When I think of times I have experienced what I would call joy, I feel as if my soul has been lifted up, far above the cares of this world. The problems and concerns don’t go away, but they seem no larger than specs of dust beneath my feet.

During these moments, I’m overwhelmed with gladness and gratitude. I’m filled with a desire to be with God, to see Jesus. For brief moments, I seem to be looking at life through eternity, seeing only what really matters. For me, joy is more than just a feeling, it’s a perspective, an eternal viewpoint, flowing from the nearness of God.

But alas, what I am recognizing as joy, can be rare in my life. I have learned many ways to kill it:

When I dwell too intently on the problem at hand, fretting, as I tackle life’s problems in my own strength, I have not joy.

When I become overwhelmed with busyness, embracing the tasks, without setting priorities and doing what’s really important, I have not joy.

When I’m overcome with the heartbreaks of life and lose sight of the fact that God’s nearness is my good, I have not joy.

When I am fooled into thinking the world will satisfy my inner longings, I have not joy.

When I hold onto an offense and let anger and resentment fester, I have not joy.

Making  heavenly choices in the midst of a physical world can be hard.  However, when I realize the mystery of Christ in me is more than just an idea, and yield to his strength, he empowers my walk.

Where is my joy? God freely gives it in His Indwelling Presence. God Himself is fullness of joy.[2] Joy is readily available to me, but I must continue to answer one burning question.

Do I choose to live for me or do I choose to live for my Lord?  This is not just a one-time decision, but one that must be made over and over again each moment of every day. When I choose rightly, joy awaits me.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. Hebrews 9:1

[1] I Peter 1:8

[2] Psalm 16:11b

Can Joy be a Choice?

“Joy does not simple happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep on choosing it every day.”  Henri Nouwen


A few months ago I crowded in a chapel attending the funeral of a little girl named Violet. Violet died during her birth, the first child of Joseph and Judy.

Many wore violet articles of clothes to the service, honoring her life and her parent’s courage. Though Violet’s life was short, she impacted us all.

After the service, we were all given violet helium balloons to release on cue. When we did, the sky was filled with floating circles of purple, growing smaller and smaller as they drifted to the heavens; a salute to violet’s life and a message of love to her from us all.

As inspirational as the balloons were, what hit me most was Violet’s parent’s response. We learned from the eulogy that in the midst of incalculable sadness and grief, Joseph and Judy were choosing joy.

 Choosing Joy?

As I ponder Joseph and Judy’s resolve, I wonder how it’s possible to choose joy just days after her death.

How could this really be true? Isn’t joy supposed to be something good? Seeing the pain on Judy and Joseph’s face, I’m conflicted.

Paul’s command in I Thessalonians 5:16 comes to mind, one of the shortest verses in the Bible: “Rejoice always;”

The word ‘rejoice’ is from the old French word ‘rejoiur’, which means full of joy.

I’m to be full of joy even when my circumstances are difficult. I’m to rejoice always. But this is extreme. An only child is dead. Are we to be full of joy even then? My heart fights this notion.

What makes choosing joy possible?

In another place I read “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Be full of joy in the Lord.

God is joy. He is the source of joy, it exudes from Him. “In your presence is fullness of Joy.” Psalm 16:11b

Choosing joy is choosing God in the midst of anything and everything I’m going through.

As children of God, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, including being sealed in Christ with the promised Holy Spirit. [1]

We are in Christ and He is in us. See also Galatians 2:20a  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me;”

Joy, true joy, is found in our nearness to Christ and His nearness to us.

Joy is eternal, unaffected by the circumstances of our lives. Joy is God himself.

Judy and Joseph love Violet so much. Their whole world was flipped upside down on the day she was born. Months of anticipation and excitement were at once turned to horror and indescribable sadness. Yet through it all, when hearts were crumbling, they clung to each other and choose God’s nearness. They choose to find their comfort in God. They choose joy.

“In your presence is fullness of joy.” 

Challenge:  What circumstance is zapping your joy right now? No matter how difficult your situation is, choose at this moment to rejoice in God’s nearness. In spite of all, choose God, choose joy.

Lord, thank you that in all I go through, you never leave me. Indeed you are closer than breath. You are my joy. Help me continually choose you. Amen

[1] Ephesians 1:3-13