from the desk of…Joyful always?
By Shelley Hill, Lt. Colonel
The word “joy” is one of my favorites. It’s simple to say, easy to spell, and creates a wonderfully positive impression in our hearts and minds.
It is also an experience that the Bible often speaks of. Indeed, the Apostle Paul instructs believers in Philippians 4:4 to“Rejoice in the Lord always.” Joyful always? Is such an experience really possible? It is difficult enough to maintain that experience in a worship setting, much less during the mundane tasks of life.
When my three children were younger, I would almost have to pull them out of bed to get them ready for school. Some mornings, the kids were cooperative and cheerful, but on others they were tired and grumpy. I would encourage them to have a great day, but if I didn’t get a positive response, I would break into song with Sunday school choruses: “I am H-A-P-P-Y” and “I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy down in my heart.”
Sometimes even the most inspired singing didn’t help, but most of the time a transformation would take place. Laughter and singing and the blessed experience of joy would emerge from the voices and faces of my children. That would certainly make those long, early morning trips to school much more pleasant and memorable. I feel that my responsibility as a wife, mother and Christian is to be an example of joy in action. I want to be able to reflect this joy in all that I do, no matter what.
A brief review of the newspaper, a survey of TV news, or a drive down the main street of any city or town in America reminds us that we live in a world desperate for the joy that God offers. So many people are hurting and lack hope for a brighter tomorrow. Yet we know that when Paul wrote the admonition to Rejoice in the Lord always, he was not unfamiliar with hardship, grief and sorrow. He was the subject of just about every kind of indignation and sadness imaginable, but he remained faithful in both his witness and experience of finding joy in his own life and sharing it with others.
As followers of the same Lord Jesus, we have both the privilege and obligation to share that same hopeful message. We must not let times of struggle, challenge or sadness rob us of our joy. The Apostle James reminds us that in such circumstances we ought to Consider it all joy…when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2-3). To maintain joy in everyday situations, we must adopt God’s perspective regarding our trials. When we hand over our trials, difficulties and attitudes to the Lord, his Spirit can change our hearts’ distress to joy.
If that is not our experience, though, we must not despair. If we are struggling to recapture joy in our life for any reason (including our own sin and failure), the time may have come for us to cry out like the psalmist of old and pray to God, Restore to me the joy of thy salvation (Ps. 51:12). With a humble and repentant heart, we can be assured that God will answer our prayer and continue the good work of spiritual restoration that will certainly include the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5) being abundant in our lives, most of all through a full and joyful heart.
Be joyful always? It is possible, but only when we enter into and remain in an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. He truly is the source of all joy.