Sometimes you feel like you lose your joy which means that you don’t control your joy. So, what’s controlling your joy?
This is a very fascinating topic. There is a lot to say about joy as there are doubts about it.
A long time ago I got asked several questions about joy but I was unable to give a firm answer. I haven’t made a scripture study about that so I wasn’t sure of several things.
Sure, I know what most people think when they talk about happiness and also you can get the Hollywood movies perspective about happiness.
Some of those perspectives are very colorful and some others are controversial. But the question about what does it says exactly in the scripture can be confusing.
We needed a more profound study and hopefully, this message will work as a start point to understand joy better.
The first thing we are going to read is something that James said and it is controversial because it relates joy with trial and temptation.
Trials and temptations
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4 NIV
There are some things that are destroying our joy and even though you may think that you know what are those things, the reality is that we are usually unaware of them.
We are unaware because our perspective of joy is not the right one. For example, James is trying to teach us how to develop joy which is different than discovering joy.
The movies and society always teach us that we must find joy like it’s waiting for us in some place. That’s just not the case.
Distinction of Joy
The first thing we can learn with James words is that even though we are all facing trials, those trials are different from each other.
There are trials associated with having too much as there are trials associated with having too little.
There’s a phrase that says “I prefer to be rich and cry about my problems inside of my Ferrari than to be poor and cry about my problems on the floor”.
I think most of us will agree with that quote. Although most of us ignore that having more in life means more responsibility and more urgency for having character.
Financial riches can create relational poverty if there is not the emotional maturity to help us understand what we’ve been given. We cannot take it for granted.
Now, we usually consider that our joy is inversely related to our trials but actually most of us don’t understand the distinction between a temptation and a trial, and it’s also important to know the distinction between the kind of trials. Otherwise, you might expend years blaming the devil for your bad decisions.
There are different kinds of trials, some of our trials are the result of evil in the world but most of them are a result of our bad decisions. Usually, we make bad decisions because we tend to go against our inner wisdom.
If you confuse trials with temptation you will also mess up the way you confront them. The scripture recommended us to resist the temptation but if you resist the trials you will torment yourself. The key for trials is not resistance but acceptance.
A lot of times we resist what we should accept and we accept what we should resist. The way to discern the difference is by praying, having a community that supports you, through the word of God, and so on. It takes time but it’s worth it when you are willing to discern them.
Actually, James knew that we will be wondering how to know the difference so he said:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.James 1.5 NIV
Some people think that there is no joy without Jesus but that’s just a lie. There are a lot of things we can enjoy without Jesus. For example, you can enjoy a very tasty meal.
What really changes with Jesus is not the quantity of joy but the quality.
There are some other popular quotes and doubts related to joy. Actually, a long time ago my brother and my mother were talking about the difference between joy and happiness. I thought that joy was from God and happiness from the world but that’s completely false.
When you read the root words on which the scripture was written you see that there’s no much difference. Steven Furtick says that in Hebrew, happy is the same word as joy. Although, I check it out and found a lot of variations but none of them were used for both happiness and joy. So, I was unable to confirm that claim.
In verse 2, when James is saying “consider it pure joy” he means “consider yourself supremely happy”. Now, we have to stop here and consider the idea of “pure joy” because it implies that there are some other types of joy.
I want to add that the Greek word translated as pure means all. So, it’s like James is telling us that we should consider every little thing as joy.
For our interest, there are just two types of Joy. There is the generic joy and there is Jesus’ joy.
Before we continue I have to add that there’s also a doubt about the difference between pleasure and joy. The best way to understand it is by knowing that pleasure is associated with joy but joy is not dependent on pleasure.
You don’t need to think too much on why is that, at least not yet, because we are going to see that along the way.
Direction of joy
We tend to link joy with our situations but Jesus is flipping that expectation of joy and that is something very needed in our society. Thanks to social media we started to get a constant pressure to feel joy or to show joy through our posts. Joy is no longer a desire but a social structure that most of the times aren’t real.
We all can testify about that and it’s not hard to understand that what we see is not always the truth. Depression can hide behind a happy photo, hate can hide behind a cheerful emoji on a status update and so on.
This social structure is producing a generation that considers joy as a feeling when it is not. Sure, joy can be expressed as a feeling but joy doesn’t start as a feeling. That’s what we can learn through Jesus example.
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12.2 NIV
Jesus is saying that whatever you set before you will be connected to your joy. So, in this revelation, Jesus is taken joy as a point of view like putting on special glasses.
Jesus didn’t find joy in the event of his crucifixion but He did in the guaranteed outcome of his crucifixion.
You may look confused but that’s something we have experienced in our lives where we are willing to go through pain when we found that there’s a purpose in that pain. One fast example would be exercise and one meaningful example will be giving birth.
We can endure pain when there’s a purpose ahead of us.
That’s why joy is more like a focus than it is a feeling.
Instead of doing what Jesus did, that is, setting the joy before him, we tend to welcome the joy killer which is better know as the act of comparing. Whenever you compare yourself with somebody else, you are killing your joy.
You decide to have joy when you decide on what you’re going to focus on.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.Psalm 16:11 NIV
Now you can understand the difference between joy and pleasure. Pleasure depends on feelings but feelings are just a consequence of joy since joy is about focus. Hence, joy comes first.
Also, joy is experienced when we live our own present with God. If you start comparing to others, you’re losing focus. If you live in regret and bitterness about the past then you’re losing focus. The best way to focus is by living your present with God. That’s why I have to ask: “Are you present in this moment? Are you present in this trial?”
We have talked about how you can lose your focus (joy) when you start looking around you (comparing) and when you start looking back (regrets) but you can also lose your focus by looking too ahead of you which is something that happens a lot to me.
I enjoy my life a lot because I have a clear purpose and a fixed focus (kind of) but when I start seeing what is ahead of me I get filled with uncertainty and that makes me lose my focus (my joy).
For all of us who live planning, God didn’t say “in your plans is the fullness of joy”, what He really said is that “in his presence there is fullness of joy”. So, whenever we are going too ahead of our time we need to go back to the presence of God.
Also, we may think that joy is our choice but it’s not. It’s a consequence of our choices. The same with focus, you don’t get focus by choice but by having priorities. What I’m trying to say is that it all starts by choosing your priorities.
We cannot control our joy directly but we can control what we choose as our priorities and our priorities do control our joy.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.Psalms 16:5 ESV
In that verse, David is saying that he chooses God as his priority in life which also means that he wants to follow God’s will. By having this priority is that we can also set joy before us to overcome any trial and even overpass any worldly joy.
As sons of God, we can enjoy a lot of worldly pleasures like food and sports but we also know that our joy doesn’t start with those things.
In the last teaching called [Flip it] we learned a concept that is “when you know where it comes from, you know how it comes out” and now there’s another concept that we can get from this teaching which is that “where it comes from determines when it runs out”.
When your joy comes from food it runs out as soon as you stop eating them. When your joy comes from sports it runs out as soon as you stop playing it or watching it. But when it comes from God it’s a whole new experience.
Actually, Jesus starts talking about what it means to stay with Him:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.John 15:7-10 ESV
And then Jesus gives the context of joy:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.John 15:11 NIV
All this time we have been settling for a partial joy but now Jesus is telling us that we can complete our joy by staying in the presence of God and in his love.
Don’t keep thinking that joy is the absence of sadness because Jesus had joy even during the cross which is an event that produces deep distress.
Like Jesus, you need to own the joy. It’s not enough to say that “Jesus is my joy” because there are people who know Jesus but doesn’t know his joy.
When we have bad priorities we are giving away control of our joy to the wrong management. If my priority is recognition, then recognition controls my joy. If my priority is convenience then when something is inconvenient, the inconvenience will steal my joy.
Actually, the wrong priorities don’t steal our joy because we are being stupid enough to give our most precious treasure to the most volatile burglar. We are giving away our joy as something worthless. All of these just because we are not establishing the right priorities.
Maybe it’s time to reset our priorities and organize them with the help of God because when we do so his joy will abide in us.
Duration of joy
Jesus is a master so don’t ask God for joy, ask him to teach you how to set joy before you as Jesus did. He’s our greatest example for living.
Actually, Jesus is not the only example. King David also understood this.
I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.Psalms 16:8 ESV
And by doing this David was able to experience the complete duration of joy.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.Psalms 16:11 ESV
David puts it very clear for us to understand that joy is found in the presence of God which is possible when we set God before us. Since God is the highest priority He is the one controlling our joy. Hence, the pleasures are just a consequence of this but notice their quality.
The duration of joy and the duration of these pleasures are forevermore.
Those are not the kind that comes and go, not the kind that leaves you feeling worst afterward, not the kind that leaves you sick afterward, not the kind that makes you feel bad about it.
This is perpetual pleasantness in the presence of God.
Prayer of joy
Father, from now on I set you before me to abide in you and to abide in your love by following your commandments. Set this reminder with me every day so I never deviate my focus and my priorities. You are forevermore my highest priority and everything else will follow your order. Here I am to live on your joy. In Jesus Christ. Amen.
This teaching was amazing for me. I learned a lot about joy and how I can experience God’s joy. This really changes a lot in my life and I hope it does the same for you.
As I have said, I will be sending a book based on this series to all of those who are subscribed to the newsletter so do that by [clicking here].
Finally, don’t forget to stay healthy and to subscribe.
See you in the next post.