In our culture it seems joy is hard to come by. We mistake joy with happiness and that can lead to frustration. Joy transcends happiness and the circumstances that surround you. The chaos of this world can lead us to lose our joy and hope that anything will ever change. The Bible tells us otherwise, and it gives a us some great examples of how joy can overcome even the darkest circumstances.
In Philippians, the Apostle Paul writes from a prison cell about the joy he has in knowing Christ, the progress of the gospel, and even awaiting trial. His punishment even in innocence could be death but he is still joyful. How? He knows Christ and the power of his resurrection and he is willing to hold on to his joy even when life seems dark and dreadful.
Joy is finding contentment in Christ through prayer, His Word, and encouragement of fellow believers who are going through similar struggles. God never promised relief from the pain or struggle or even prison, but He does walk through them all with us, and our faith as it is tested by fire will be purified as gold and silver. Allow God to provide joy even when it seems there is no joy to be found.
Have you ever lost something super valuable to you? I heard about one story of a lost wedding ring in a lake, later found by a couple in shallow water. One day, while asking a local jeweler what they should do with the ring, after four months of searching for the owner, he asked, “where they found the ring?” Sure enough, it was a couple who had just inquired if anyone had found a lost wedding ring in the same lake. Rings can be lost and found, just like a fruitless wandering life can be lost and found in Christ.
After trusting in Christ, Jesus gives us a picture of what our new life should resemble in Luke 9:23. First, self-denial – we must seek after the things of God not our selfish gain. Second, self-sacrifice – the cross is a place of death, there is no making it out alive. The cross symbolizes in our life all that must die in order to become a disciple of Christ. Jesus is not just an add-on to our life. His journey becomes our journey. Finally, we must be self-motivated; we must desire to follow Jesus example; it cannot be a casual relationship. Following Jesus means that we consume our life with His directives, and He will make our path straight. Ask God to help you live the sacrificial life!