Thursday evening I attended Bible study. The events of the night brought about one word that has consumed my thoughts since. That is joy. Do you have it? How long for? How do you get it? How do you maintain it? What causes it? A smile crosses my face at just the thought of it, after all joy is an emotion of great happiness and pleasure. Who doesn’t desire that? Be real, we all do! So back to the question(s) how can I have joy and can I keep it always with me? I can confidently say yes! How? God!
Corrie ten Boom said “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.” Oh what great truth this statement has and I would add not just rest, but hope and joy in all things. Christ is the answer for everything. In Psalm 16 David not only recognized this fact but lived his life in light of this truth. “My heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices…in your presence there is fullness of joy” (vv. 8, 11). David had joy because he set the Lord before him, he recognized the Lord was his portion, his inheritance, his preserver, his Lord. In the Lord is where joy is found and kept and this is why I can confidently say you can have joy and keep it. Stop finding your joy in circumstances. It will come and go just as quick they do. Find your joy in Christ and you will be full, complete, lacking in nothing (John 15:11, 1 John 1:4, Ps 23:1, John 10:10). As Spurgeon said “If the Lord is your joy, your joy will never dry up.”
Alright, alright, alright “I hear you Hannah, but…” Oh my sentiments are with you. I don’t always feel joy and I know I am a daughter of the Most High King, a beloved child of His. So why don’t I have joy all the time? The answer is simple. I look within and out and not up. Let me explain. Sorrow is everywhere. Why? Because of sin, sin leads to death. We live in a world that is dying and far too often I look within and out and not up. I turn to myself for answers and don’t look past that which is happening right before me. In those moments I have chosen to set the world before me instead of my Lord and true joy is not present apart from Him.
So what to do? I must seek the Lord. I must “set the Lord always before me” (v. 8). This verse is key in Psalm 16 regarding joy. To set my Lord always before me means that I will resolve to view life always through the lens of God. He is front and center of every situation, He is in control, He is with me always, and He is to be trusted. There are countless men in the Bible that lived in light of this reality, one being Job.
As I was preparing for a final exam last night the keyword for the book of Job came as no surprise. It was suffering. To one who knows the story of Job the word suffering is fitting as this man knew great suffering. What struck me was the purpose statement for the book of Job and that is “to explain that when faced with suffering, the appropriate response is not to seek from God the reasons for the suffering, but to fear and trust Him implicitly.” If you don’t know about Job, go read Job chapters 1-2 and then reread that purpose statement. Would that be your first response? Fear God and trust Him implicitly! Consider your own life. Do your actions and thoughts reveal a reverent fear of God and trust in Him implicitly? Huge gulp, jaw to the floor, my mind is still processing all the while a lightbulb goes off - Joy! I see it! I know my God and I know Hannah. Looking within Hannah’s self understanding is foolish. As I seek my Lord, the answers I am looking for aren’t always discovered but peace fills my mind as I consider the One who knows the answers and that is more than enough for me. I don’t need to know all the reasons of life I just need to know Jesus.
So often I let circumstances distract me from God. Why do I search for a reason in suffering instead of simply setting my Lord before me and fear and trust Him implicitly as He knows all things? My Lord is at work and I was reminded that “It’s not enough just to say that things happen for a reason; the point is that things happen for God’s reasons. God Himself is actively at work in our world and in our lives to carry out His own objectives” (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth). This is the way of joy. Again I will say “My heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices…in your presence there is fullness of joy” (vv. 8, 11).
Trust me, I know this isn’t easy. I wrestle with seeing joy in the sorrows weekly. Lately the cloud of sorrow has been hovering near. In the past month there isn’t a weekend that hasn’t gone by where I haven’t left for work Friday unsure of whether or not I will return to work Tuesday to see my dear patient(s) or write their discharge note because death has befallen them. Just yesterday morning I stood in the elevator with my first patient to begin the day as another resident walked in. Our eyes met and my heart sank. As I stepped out to leave she gentle leaned in and pulled me close to whisper “did you hear?” Yes, I had heard just the evening before. Her beloved husband of over sixty years had passed away.
How do I maintain joy in that moment while I grieve with her? Because I set my Lord before me. I find myself wrestling to find joy in sorrow when I leave out God. Joy is bereft when I view my situations apart from His presence. Know this, the clouds of sorrows may never cease to hover this side of heaven, but the rainbow of hope and joy is always at hand because God is ever present and always about His business. The Gospel of Christ, His death and resurrection, fellowship with Him, and the promise of eternity are sure and steadfast. Make God the King of your heart today and your joy will never dry up. Joy found in the Lord will fill you full on earth and only continue to overflow throughout eternity as we grow in the knowledge of our Lord. If you are in Christ may your joy be restored and if you are not in Christ may you come to Him today “In His presence there is fullness of joy” (v. 11)!
A Miktam of David.
1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.