When we believe the Gospel to be true, joy shows up when it just doesn’t make sense.
Has anyone ever asked you this question: “If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be?” That seems to be a common question in icebreaker games, in a classroom, or just in random conversations. The premise is to get to understand people a little better by knowing who they would choose to dine with and why.
My answer is usually my paternal grandmother Ruth or the apostle Paul. Both because they intrigue me. The first because I don’t really know her life story since she passed away long before I was born. And the latter because I do know his story.
The biggest reason Paul intrigues me is because of his joy. He was a man who had seen both sides of joy as Saul (the joyless) and then as the converted Paul (the joyful). I think we can all relate to that in some way with our own life, taking the journey from joyless to joyful. I am guessing that all of our joyless points are different. But I will bet that our joyful points have one common thread…the Lord.
In all of the books of the Bible that Paul authored, he consistently speaks of joy despite what is happening around him. “Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.” (Phillippians 3:1) “We can rejoice too when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” (Romans 5:3) “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
Do you know what the definition of joy is according to the dictionary? It is “a feeling of great pleasure or happiness”. That isn’t the joy that I know. That isn’t the joy that Paul is speaking of in any of the books he wrote. That is outward worldly joy based on emotions and circumstances, which are both temporary. Aren’t you glad that definition of joy isn’t the deep-rooted inner joy God promises to us as believers?
When we believe the Gospel to be true, joy shows up when it just doesn’t make sense. When a child dies, when a spouse has cancer, when your own life is turned upside down by things you can’t control…joy remains. Paul found joy in the midst of being beaten in prison. How can joy coexist with hard circumstances? “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) When we know our problems and our circumstances do not define us as believers, we can find joy. When we know Jesus has already won, we can find joy. When we realize earthly problems will stay here when we pass and we will be in the presence of our Savior, we can find joy.