Where is Your Joy? (August 1)

A friend recently asked me this simple question, which she said the Lord prompted her to leave with me. She said the answer was none of her business, but the Lord just wanted her to ask it, for my consideration. Where is your joy?

The question, from a human standpoint, came out of a criticism, which was that my friend thought that I should be more outwardly excited about things that I was doing for her or giving to her. By saying something like “Well, I can’t say that I love tiling, exactly, but I’m just as happy to be doing this as all my work for the Lord, and I’m very happy that you enjoy it so much!”, I was not showing sufficient joy, and she thought that was something that I should work on. To my friend, when she spoke in joy, it sounded like this:

   I absolutely love this tile! It just brings such peace and joy!

   I am just so excited that you are able to give this gift to us! How cool is that? 

   Yes! I’m super-excited! Let’s sand these cabinets and paint them! I love sanding and I love painting!

   This day is going to be totally epic! It’s gonna be awesome! Right? It’s totally gonna be awesome!

   Did you see this amazing bike that the Lord blessed me with?

So, where was my joy? Because, I sounded more like this, and this was dull to my friend:

   How are you doing this morning?

   What did you hear when you prayed about that last night?

   Either paint color will look great – just dedicate your choice to the Lord.

   Lord, thank you for this food. Help us to be filled with your Spirit and follow your ways today, because we love you. Amen.

   Sure, we can start tiling. Or we can paint cabinets. It’s all the Lord’s work! You choose whatever you’d like to work on first.

Sometimes, it also sounded like:

   So, I understand that you want to tear the toilet out right now because you “ hate” it. But, we’re right in the middle of installing the tub. If we switch over to the floor, we’ll lose time because we have to wait for the floor to dry before we can stand on it to tile the shower. But if we tile the shower first, we can start on the floor while it’s drying. And, since our family is using the bathroom, we’d like to leave the toilet in place until we’re completely ready to start tiling the floor, so we can minimize the time without a toilet. So, things will go a lot more smoothly if we just wait a little while. But, ultimately, it’s your call, and we’ll work with it either way you like.

For me, this answer is actually pretty joyful because, given a similar circumstance a few years ago, I would have been mad. Mad about someone constantly changing their mind, mad about never being able to stick to a plan, mad that someone had no appreciation for work that was done but constantly asked about what was next and when we would get that done, mad about someone who didn’t care if we had a place to shower or a place to pee. But I wasn’t mad. I felt calm and peaceful and well. And if we had to tear out the toilet right now and march through her master bedroom every night for 10 days to go to the bathroom, the Lord would see us through it, because we were obeying His will! And that, meager though it may be, was a great upgrade in joy in my life! But not enough joy for my friend, who simply wanted me to be more excited about things.

In the moment that my friend asked me this question, I had no simple answer. I said, “Thank you. I’ll pray about that. I know I’m always asking the Lord about being more joyful in all circumstances.”

Joe, in answer to the same question from my friend, said:

          “You have a certain idea about what joy should be…But I’m just reading this description from Rick Warren, and he says: 

My problem was my definition of joy. I thought joy meant feeling good all the time. That’s impossible! Even for those who are naturally upbeat and optimistic, that’s impossible. We have to start somewhere more realistic — and close to Scripture.  So here’s the definition I’ve come up with from studying Scripture: Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation. (http://rickwarren.org/devotional/english/the-definition-of-joy. July 4, 2016.)

          That’s more what my definition of joy is like, so I consider myself to be pretty joyful. But of course I’d always like to be more joyful!”

This was great for me to hear, because I thought it well-described the quiet progress of my heart…

And later, as I asked the Lord, “Lord, where is my joy? Am I not joyful enough? How can I be more joyful?”, I heard Him say, Your joy is in the Lord!

And I thought, “Yes! It’s true! My joy is in the Lord. It’s not in the things of this world. And it is in the Lord. And still I pray that I’ll grow more in joy, just as I pray that I’ll grow more in the Lord. But my joy is absolutely in the right place, at least!”

I think that, in our human nature, it’s easy to consider “joy” and “excitement” to be synonyms, to be substitutes for one another, to expect joy and excitement to look the same in a person’s behavior, and to expect a person to show excitement if they love the Lord, because they should most certainly have joy! And, if we are very focused on ourselves, we would like them to be excited about everything that we are excited about, because that would seem more joyful in our eyes.

I pray that I will ever grow more joyful, but I refuse to try to simply show more excitement, especially excitement about passing things of this world, in order for someone else to see it. What I realized, sadly, is that if my joy is in the Lord, and someone else can’t see my joy, that probably also means that they can’t see the Lord.

So, I will only continue to pursue having my thoughts ever-more-on-Jesus, having faith in that path to perfect joy, and if that happens to result in a more visible joy to the outside world, I’ll just be glad that they can see Him!

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