If you haven’t read Part 1 of “Joy in the Everyday,” you can find it here.
While it can be easy to feel excited about my husband and I having a new baby or about the good news that a dear friend is now cancer-free, we sometimes struggle to live joyfully in our everyday, predictable, boring lives. Sometimes this is simply caused by relying too heavily on our emotions. Today, we will look at a few hindrances to joy, as well as some practical thoughts about drawing close to Christ, Who is our true joy.
Hindrances to Joy
While this is not an exhaustive list, here are 3 clear causes of a lack of joy in the Christian life:
Do you have unconfessed and/or ongoing continual sin in your life? Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” If we are harboring unconfessed sin in our hearts, or we are unwilling to give up habitual sin and are not walking with the Lord, we cannot expect our spiritual life to be unimpeded.
Are we resisting or refusing forgiveness towards another? As we see in Mark 11:25, this is not an option for the believer: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” When we come to Christ, we come to truly see that without Him we are flawed with wicked and sinful hearts (yes, all of us). We recognize we are unworthy of the grace we receive and unable to earn our salvation. How, then, can we view ourselves as any better than another, or think that our sin is any less painful or grievous to our Savior?
(For a more in-depth look at Biblical forgiveness, see here and here.)
Are our expectations wrong? Mankind longs for ease and comfort in various ways. Believers will often be stretched and challenged through His sanctifying work, which may mean there are times where we don’t “feel” at ease or comfortable. We are told that, as followers of Christ, we will suffer, but that in our suffering we can trust our faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19) to shape us to become more like Christ (1 Peter 4:12-16, James 1:2-3). We can have peace knowing He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We can also take comfort, realizing we are in good company, when we recall the suffering, yet joy, of those early followers of Christ.
Practical Thoughts About Joy
Be purposeful and intentional
Seek God earnestly. We cannot neglect time spent in prayer, time in the Word, and fellowship with believers. The “fruit of the Spirit” is the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Thus, if He is continually at work (and He is), there should be obvious signs of this work. This cannot happen if we are not abiding in Christ: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:16).
Honesty with the Lord is important in our relationship with Him. We can be encouraged by Psalm 62:8, which tells us to “Trust in Him at all times, O People; Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us.” Not only does He tell us to share our hearts, and that we can trust Him, but He assures us that He is our shelter and stronghold. Consistency in confessing sin and repentance is crucial. We can be genuine in our prayer life, confessing our struggles and weaknesses, asking Him to transform us. Our merciful and great God already knows our hearts far better than we ever will.
God has given us His Spirit, Who instructs and guides us (John 14:26), has poured His grace over our lives (John 1:16), and has begun a work that He will continue until we are with Him (Philippians 1:6). His work is never wasted.
We have been given the exhortation to practice self-control (Galatians 5:23, Titus 2:5), including in our emotions. While we can and do “feel” joyful, it is not just a feeling. We should not allow ourselves to be dominated by our emotions and how we “feel,” using our emotions as a guide to how we are doing spiritually. It is possible to have joy and not be on an emotional high all the time, just as it is possible to feel cheerful and pleasant when we are not walking with the Lord.
My son is 20 months now, and life is exciting and also predictably routine at the same time. We are again amazed at our gracious God’s good gifts as we look forward to another child arriving in six months. By no means am I the epitome of glee and cheer, especially when my toddler wakes me at pre-dawn hours! As with many things, some days (or weeks and months) are more difficult than others. The challenge to be joyful will ever be before me to some degree, as my sanctification will not be complete until I am with Christ. I have been saved by grace alone, through Christ’s perfect sinless life, His suffering in death, and His resurrection. It is only by my Sovereign, merciful God’s call on my life, through the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart, that I have the blessing of fellowship with the One True God. My life may not be easy and comfortable in all the ways I desire, but it can still be a life, full and abundant — a life full of joy truly found in Him.