In the past, I've written on Hope, Contentment Without Knowing, Justice, Steady, Anger and Wrath, A Time For War, Warfare Ruts, Praying for Government, Discouragement, and Fear, among other subjects. These are all topics that we have needed to delve into these days. Especially throughout 2020. Even as I write this, in the United States - as well as every other country - the turmoil and friction is palpable. But have we considered joy? People often quote 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and Philippians 4:6, both of which tell us to give thanks "in" everything. But I've never heard Ephesians 5:20 talked about in a lesson, sermon or even mentioned in conversation. But there it is in the midst of a list of instructions: "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." (Emphasis added)
Ephesians 5:20 is not only a key to obtaining the joy we all long for, it is the reason for seeking joy. So how do we get joy when we're hurting and in pain, either physically or emotionally? Why does joy leave us so quickly when circumstances go haywire or emotional tornadoes hit us?
First of all we need to realize that joy is not gladness. We can see this by the simple fact that the two words are sometimes used with the word "and" between them. According to Psalm 51:8 joy is cheerfulness, specifically welcome, which gives the picture of an emotion of deep root, and attitude of the heart. Gladness is blithesomeness, glee or mirth specifically expressed outwardly. Psalm 105:43 adds another aspect to gladness - that of a cry, of shouting and/or singing. In other words, you can have joy without an audible sound and gladness without the deeper root of joy. In the Greek New Testament joy is a calm delight and gladness is exultation as we see in Luke 1:14. This difference makes sense to Believers who have experienced the joy of the Lord because His joy is so deep, long-lasting and easily engrained into the depth of our being. It's a joy that unbelievers search for by seeking one happy experience after another, after another. Even as Solomon wrote, "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that joy is heaviness." (Proverbs 14:13) Perhaps this is why the word "joy" is found more than three times as often in scripture as the word "gladness."
Of course, joy can be lost as David experienced when he cried, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation." (Psalm 51:12) This can happen to us too. People have experienced this quite a lot during the last year especially (2020). So the question arises, how do we get our joy back? And how do we keep it from waning in the first place? Here are some answers I've learned throughout all my many years.
- Talk to the Lord. "Give joy to the soul of Your servant; for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul." (Psalm 86:4)
- Worship Him. (Psalm 30:1)
- Say to yourself - out loud - "This is the day that the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24 emphasis added) As an FYI, if you do a word-search, you'll discover that David used the word "will" quite a bit. It was often a decision he made to worship, to rejoice and to be glad whether he felt like it or not. He is a good example of that Ephesians 5:20 scripture.
- If you're physically tired or weary, go to bed! It's hard to function, much less keep a positive attitude when our bodies need rest. When our children were young and didn't want to take a nap, I would tell them, "The mark of an adult is that when they are tired, they go to bed." Unfortunately, many, many adults have never grown up in this regard. In fact, research has shown that many automobile accidents are caused by drivers who are too tired and even momentarily go to sleep at the wheel. It's interesting that the word "rest" can be found 346 times in the Bible. I personally believe that the reason Americans don't give themselves enough time to sleep is that it is a form of self-idolatry. Time is the only thing we have in common with the rest of the world and we want more of it. We often don't go to sleep because there's too much to do - or to worry about. It's a form of trying to play God. Yes, there are sleep disorders. At one time I had three types of sleep disorders so I know. But, it's amazing how healing can come when we acknowledge what we need to do and what we need to give to the Lord. "Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him REST from the days of adversity, UNTIL the pit is dug for the wicked." (Psalm 94:12-13 emphasis added)
- Give yourself opportunities to laugh. Watch a funny movie. Read what I call the philosophy section of the newspaper (the comics). Just make sure your humor is clean and God-honoring. Your spirit, soul and body need what laughter gives to each part. Let the Lord "fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with rejoicing." (Job 8:21)
- Do whatever it takes (that you can afford) to recharge your batteries. If you get energy from being with people, don't wait for someone else to plan a get-together. If you draw energy from quiet alone-time, make sure that happens.
- Take responsibility for your own attitude. Nobody can MAKE you angry or intimidated or frustrated or fearful. Those are decisions that our own little brains decide on their own. Yes, such negative emotions may be based on past experiences or from observing others but they are still our decision. And scripture lets us know how to deal with each one. The term "inner healing" was coined in the 1980s which basically means identifying the root of that emotion, understanding how it got there and then learning how to get rid of each thing that makes us angry or frustrated or fearful or sorrowful or any habitual negative emotion so that those inner dynamics don't have control over us any more. Proverbs 14:8 says, "The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way." So be teachable, learn, grow!
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
At this time warring factions, opinions and emotions are running high. If you don't want to lose your joy or gladness over a victory, take care to abide by Proverbs 24:17-18.
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him,
And He turn away His wrath from him.