After picking up my daughter from school, I needed to run to the grocery store for a couple dinner items. Upon checking out, my 12 year old looks at our cashier and says, “I just want to tell you that you are a beautiful person.” It was one of those moments that made me well up with pride and joy. I welcome these moments, especially when they come from my pre-teen who, well, is a pre-teen…nuff said. Or other moments, like when my other daughter decides to pack more food in her lunch because a friend at school often comes to school with very little to eat. Or when my son desires to pray before our meals. These are the moments when I can see God’s Word come to life when it says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)
When we begin to experience a more intimate relationship with Jesus, that is when we also experience the true nature of joy. I’m not talking about being happy. Happiness is momentary. The joy that I’m referring to is a joy that you live in, regardless of your circumstances, because you know who you reside in. Psalm 16:11 proclaims, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” And as Jesus was preparing his disciples for His physical absence, He told them, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22) I remember when I saw this played out in front of me about 16 years ago. My friends and I had experienced the loss of one of our friends. We were at his funeral, and as a worship song was playing, I witnessed his wife raise her hands in praise to God. It was a moment I will always remember as she was able to find joy in her sorrow, knowing full well that God was in control and she would one day see her husband again.
The antithesis of joy and abiding in Jesus, is the sorrow, frustration, and anxiety we experience when we are lacking and/or choosing not to live in His shadow. When we try and live life on our own, thinking we have everything under control, that is when we see our true sinful nature rear it’s ugly head. Jesus made it very clear that we can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5). So why do we even try? Whenever you are feeling those “out of control” moments, that’s the perfect time to evaluate where you are in Christ.
It goes without saying that this world is dominated by sin, corruption, hate, greed, and the list goes on. To talk about abiding in Christ is not to say that life is all roses. Remember, abiding in Christ is a call to action. Should you desire to overcome all that this world is, you must seek Christ and all that He has to offer right now (Matthew 6:33). Thomas à Kempis spoke to this beautifully:
Patience is necessary in this life because so much of life is fraught with adversity. No matter how hard we try, our lives will never be without strife and grief. Thus, we should not strive for a peace that is without temptation, or for a life that never feels adversity. Peace is not found by escaping temptations, but by being tried by them. We will have discovered peace when we have been tried and come through the trial of temptation. (The Imitation of Life, 1441)
However, no greater words were ever spoken than by the One we seek on a daily basis. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Pay special attention to what Jesus is saying, “In me you may have peace.” Therefore we must have a deeper relationship with Jesus, abiding in Him and His word, in order to experience a greater joy that only He can provide.
How are you experiencing a greater joy in Christ? What have your trials and moments of hardship taught you? How is your joy being made complete (John 3:29, Philippians 2:2, 1 John 1:4). Let’s keep the conversation going. God bless you!