When I think of joy it reminds me of the verse in 1 Peter, chapter 1, verse 8, Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.’
Joy is not happiness. It is something indescribable, gloriously indefinable. It does not depend on circumstances and it does not die in the face of adversity. It does not depend on things going right or on bountiful blessings. Even tragedy can bring blessings and joy to the soul of a believer whose heart is steadfast, trusting that our God knows what is best for each one of us. And sometimes the best can only come from suffering. From my own experience the greatest depth of joyful worship is born out of the depths of suffering. A heart touched by suffering can be freshly touched by His love.
My husband, David and I prayed for healing from his terminal cancer and it’s right to ask for healing, but sometimes God’s answer is ‘no’ because He knows the future and we do not. Our joy comes when we are able to say, ‘Thy will be done in these circumstances’.
I had never before known the depth of grief and loss that I felt when the Lord finally took David home. It was almost beyond endurance. Yet in the midst of the turmoil of feelings and what felt like an icy barrier around my heart, He cocooned me in the knowledge of His endless love and compassion.
The joy of the Lord is indefinable, yet it is a very tangible connection between our God and us. It underpins everything. We can feel sad, yet underneath the sadness there can be that joy that bubbles up from the depths of our being. Submitting our will to His and being able to say, however haltingly, ‘They will be done’, triggers an avalanche of anticipation in our heart. It culminates in such a joyful experience of inner praise and worship that it can take us unawares and surprise us with the essence of the Father’s love. Sometimes hard situations come into our lives and we wonder why the Lord doesn’t protect us from them. But our wisdom is not His wisdom, nor His ways our ways. He knows the beginning from the end of every situation and He sometimes allows us to walk through dark tunnels. We can either walk alone through those dark days, depending on our inadequate inner strength, or we can submit our will to His and walk through the valley with Him by our side. The choice is ours.
We might not know the outcome of a situation in advance, but we will know that we are walking alongside the One who does know. And if the outcome is not what we desired or expected, then His very closeness will be all that we need to bring us through the darkness, until the light shines again. Total dependence on our Heavenly Father is not weakness, but an inner strength that is willing to accept the bad alongside the good and still be thankful. It is learning obedience even when our heart is breaking under the weight of an unbearable situation. It is learning to bear whatever comes into our lives with a certain knowledge that our Heavenly Father loves us enough to allow us to suffer. Sometimes suffering is the price paid to gain that deep and trusting father and child relationship with Him.
Joy is a jewel beyond measure. Our Heavenly Father sometimes has to dig and prune to bring it from its hidden depths, but when it is brought to the surface it is a powerful witness to His Lordship in our lives. An extraordinary tool for proving His absolute trustworthiness.
The joy of the Lord is my strength. (From Nehemiah 8:10)
Pauline Carruthers (email@example.com)