The Presence of Joy is the Presence of the Holy Spirit
I know I’m supposed to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Surely Paul wasn’t kidding when he commanded. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4). He meant it; it’s not optional. Joy is a must. A heart that won’t rejoice in Christ doesn’t know him.
Paul made it very clear in Phil 4:4, I need to rejoice. More than that, I want to rejoice. But why is it so hard? The battle for joy can be exhausting. For example, there are moments when I don’t feel at peace with a person. This feeling doesn’t keep me from controlling my tongue and using my words to bless instead of curse them.
But the fight for joy is different. It’s not clear what doing joyful things looks like. Joyful actions don’t stimulate joyful feelings. In an article in the New York Times, David Hochman reported about a Harvard Psychologist, Amy Cuddy who made a name for herself teaching us to “fake it till we make it.” Spend a few minutes with your arms behind your head and your legs up on your desk, she argues, and you’ll feel strong enough to negotiate a higher salary. Maybe. But you can’t muster joy. You can’t fake it. Joy defies manipulation.
The presence of joy is a mark of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We must have it. We need joy because it’s precious evidence God means more to us than anything else.
What is joy? It is not the absence of sadness or the absence of sorrow. The writers of the Psalms never hide their pain:
“I will rejoice and be glad in your love, once you have seen my misery, observed my distress. You will not abandon me into enemy hands, but will set my feet in a free and open space. Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am in distress; with grief my eyes are wasted, my soul and body spent. My life is worn out by sorrow, my years by sighing. My strength fails in affliction; my bones are consumed” (Ps. 31:8-11).
“As a deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night as they ask daily,” “Where is your God?” (Ps. 42:2-4).
“To you, Lord, I call; my Rock, do not be deaf to me” (Ps. 28:1).
Notice the honesty. The Psalmist don’t try to fake it till they make it. And yet, these seasons of grief are always accompanied by reliance on a trustworthy God. In Psalm 28, David may be burdened by the reality God seems deaf to him, yet in his pain he calls God his Rock (28:1).
Joy is an inward affection that finds and outward expression in praise and adoration and song. “Happy are those who dwell in your house! They never cease to praise you” (Ps. 84:5). A God who has done great things is a God who tells us to be glad and rejoice; “Fear not, O land! Exult and rejoice! For the Lord has done great things.” (Joel 2:21).
And the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by Philip when they both went down to the water. “When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).
Amy Carmichael, a missionary, describes joy as “settled happiness.” It’s a gift from God that “is ours today because Christ is here; it’s ours tomorrow because Christ will be there, and it’s ours forever because he will never leave us.”
I agree with Carmichael that joy is “settled happiness,” and it’s settled because it’s rooted in a life-changing faith that knows our God is wonderful. Nothing can shake the ground of our joy,
Because the ground of our joy is a holy, loving, faithful, and immovable God.
Finally, the key to finding joy is to stop looking for it. Keep your eyes on Christ instead. Then watch and wait. Joy will come. Also, I personally subscribe to the thinking of Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel).
Prayer for Lasting Joy