I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. – John 17:13
“Joy to the World!” The holidays are upon us so this elicits joy, right? Oh, you are not feeling it right now? Perhaps you are in a dry season roaming the wilderness while seeking clarity. Some are presently in the valley of confusion or despair. There are many navigating the rough waters of grief. A few of you might be in a raging spiritual war that has afforded little time to come up for air and even realize the season. And there are still others who might say, “Oh, that is not my plight; I don’t have it that bad, so I am not quite sure why I am not feeling joyful.” Maybe it is because you are busy, overcommitted, overwhelmed or just plain worn out. Maybe there is no clear reason. Regardless of having an obvious reason, if you are not feeling the “joy, joy, joy down in your heart” perhaps what may be needed is a change in perspective.
“Everything fell to pieces when my eyes met yours in that hospital gown…”
– Switchfoot, Joy Invincible
Joy is not without trials. In our referenced scripture (John 17:13) Jesus is praying for His disciples to have the full measure of His joy because He knew all too well that trials were coming. So instead of asking for mere brief feelings of elation what Jesus purposed for those whom He loved was something deeper and lasting.
Please indulge me a short trip to the lexicon. In this scripture the Greek work used for joy is chairo. It is defined – to be glad; to rejoice; to be well; to thrive. To build on this concept, to thrive is defined as growing or developing in a healthy way. So considering that joy is growing or developing in a healthy way it is easier to apprehend why joy is not without trials because growth is most often the fruit of struggles. Jesus yearned for his disciples to grow and develop in a healthy way in order to attain the full measure of joy. That is His desire for us. In life there will be situations that stir up elation that cause us to rejoice and be glad; this is good and His desire for us as well. However, the happiness that is dependent upon situations is fleeting and but a small portion of the full measure of joy. The full measure of joy Jesus wants for us is a spiritual reality that is independent of circumstances.
Joy means looking beyond the temporary trials and challenges and seeing with the eyes of faith. This faith will build upon itself with each encounter we have in union with Christ. As we grow in Christ the spiritual reality of joy manifests as a glimpse of the eternal perspective. For those in Christ, the eternal perspective is one of great HOPE. Thus JOY is rooted in Christ Jesus.
You may be thinking ‘that sounds great in theory and rhetoric, but what does that look like in my life?’
When we have joy to the full measure in Christ it means that even in the deep waters of grief; the uncertainty of wilderness seasons where our future is unknown; the lingering sting of rejection, abandonment, or betrayal by a loved one; the overwhelming anxiety of barely keeping one’s head above water; the paralyzing reality of a diagnosis; the relentless small challenges that add up to an overall feeling of drowning; or whatever your plight may be there is hope. It means you can take a deep breath, cry out to the God in heaven who delights in your prayers and cares for you. You can ask Him to meet you right where you are and expect that He will. It means singing songs in the night even when you are not feeling it. It means that even when the bottom falls out, He is faithful. It means we are truly not forsaken or forgotten. It means He meant it when He said, “cast your cares upon Me.” It is the assurance that what the enemy means for evil, He is working for good. He will make sure that through the mountains and the valleys that each step of this journey will help us grow and develop well until the day he returns. Joy is eternal and invincible when it is rooted in Christ Jesus. He is faithful! Joy to you my friends!
“Hallelujah, nevertheless was the song that pain couldn’t destroy,
Hallelujah, nevertheless. You’re my joy invincible joy!”
-Switchfoot, Joy Invincible
Shelly and her family attend St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in Spring, Texas.