If you’ve ever read the book of Job, you may have found yourself feeling sorry for him. There may have been times in your life when you’ve even related to him too. I know I have had those moments. When you go through periods of loss or continuous disappointment, Job is a great book to read. You will find that there’s always someone who has it worse than you, there is purpose in pain and that you can endure anything. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the book, but I can tell you that I’m still amazed when I come to the end of the first chapter. After Job has lost all his livestock, his riches and his children, he doesn’t curse God. He doesn’t cry out, “Why me?” Instead, it says he fell to his knees and worshipped God. He recognized that everything he had came from God, and if God took it all back, he was good with it.
I can honestly say that during my times of great disappointment and loss, that was not my attitude. To stand on rock bottom in life, look up from the hole you’re in and bless God seems unfathomable, yet Job was able to. If he was able to, you and I are to. He made the choice to worship instead of to whine. He chose to bless God instead of to curse Him. He made the choice to recognize everything he had belonged to God and wasn’t a result of His own work. The perspective he had challenges me to readjust and calibrate how I see God and how I react in the bad times. It’s easy to worship when things are going well, but can we worship when everything seems to be going wrong? Can we praise Him when our prayers are unanswered? Can we thank Him when we don’t see a way forward? Can you say, “Even though I’m broken, yet will I praise you”?
Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (NLT) There’s a very similar picture here to the attitude Job had and that we are to have. Joy is not something that is circumstantial. It doesn’t rely on what’s going on around you. Joy looks at where your strength comes from. It looks at who your hope is in. It is defiant in the face of any circumstance you may face, and it says, “My hope is not in al, these things. My hope is in God. No matter what comes my way, I know that my God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than I can ask or pray for. Even though things look bad now, yet will I praise God! He is my rock, my fortress and my salvation.” You and I have that same spirit of joy within us. In tough times, activate it and worship. Remind yourself that God is in control, He has a plan and that no matter what happens you will continue to trust and to praise Him.
I was speaking to someone recently about the old computer operating system DOS. I remember as a kid learning how to write programs for DOS. We were taught to increase each command line by 10 so if you needed to add a line of programming later, you had the room. Another thing they taught us is the phrase, “If this, then that.” It was a way to tell the computer if the user does this, then I want you to skip to another line and run the program from there. It was all about cause and consequence.
The Bible is full of “if this, then that” type phrases. In John 15:7 Jesus said, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you then you can ask whatever you will.” II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people will humbled selves and pray, then I will hear from Heaven and heal their land.” These are just a couple of examples. God puts conditions on many promises that require an action on our part first in order to activate them just like in the old DOS programming. If we don’t do the first part, then the next part is skipped.
Another conditional promise is found in 2 John 1:3. It says, “Grace, mercy and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ – the Son of the Father – will continue to be with us who live in truth and love” (NLT). If we will continue to live in truth and love we will receive grace, mercy and peace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor which affords joy, delight and pleasure according to the Blue Letter Bible. The favor of God alone is enough, but John added in (through his use of the word grace) that we would also get joy, delight and pleasure by living in truth and love.
Next, he said we would get mercy. One of the definitions of mercy is to have the providence of God. That means that God will order your steps and guide your future. He won’t just let you wander. Your life will be filled with purpose which leads to the last promise of peace. When we live in love and truth, we will also get peace in our hearts, in our minds and in our lives. God wants to give us these three blessings if we will simply live in truth and love.
Just the other day my son was asking why no one mails him anything. Each day he sees us open the mail. Most of the time what we are opening is bills, but this time of year, there are lots of Christmas cards. Each year there seem to be fewer and fewer cards, and each year the cards are saying less. When I was younger, each card had a hand written note. As I grew up, people started putting family newsletters inside. Now, it’s just the name of the family.
Yes, I’m lamenting about the current status of Christmas cards. Since the invention of email, personal letters in Christmas cards, and otherwise, have almost become extinct. Very few people write personal letters anymore. There’s something encouraging about a personal letter that you don’t get from an email or a signed card. Personal letters often bring joy to the recipient. I imagine that’s where the tradition of sending Christmas cards came from.
Much of the New Testament is really just personal letters sent by the apostles to encourage others. In Acts 15, the apostles sent a joint letter answering questions about how believers should behave. Verse 31 tells us, “When the people read it, they were filled with joy by the message of encouragement” (GNT). That’s what letters do. They fill people with joy and encouragement. No wonder my son wishes for mail.
2 Corinthians 3:2 says, “You yourselves are the letter we have, written on our hearts for everyone to know and read.” Each of our lives should be a personal letter to the world written by God. It should encourage others and bring them joy. Jesus was God’s love letter to us. His birth announced that God heard our cry to be joined with Him. Now, His Spirit lives in us and we are His love letter to the world. Make your letter personal and let it bring joy to all who read it.
Lamentations 4 and 5 are two of the saddest chapters in the Bible. Jeremiah was so descriptive of what life was like living under the control of their enemy. The people who were once wealthy were digging through the trash to find food. The kids were forced to do manual labor that was too hard for them. Anyone caught looking for food outside the city walls was killed. Confidence was replaced with desperation, and joy was replaced with a deep depression.
People no longer gathered to talk. No one sang any songs. The population was dwindling down because people were dying of starvation. It was a very dark period in Israel’s history. Jeremiah knew they were living under the enemy’s control because they had turned their back on God. He cried out in repentance and asked God how long would they suffer. Then he remembered that suffering is temporary, but God is eternal.
You may be going through a dark time in your life right now as well. It may feel like God has abandoned you and that you are living under the enemy’s control. I know what it’s like to live through that. I know what it feels like to lose everything and wonder if you should still try to keep going. I can let you know that the suffering is only temporary. It does end and the sun comes out again. God has not abandoned you no matter how alone you feel.
I pray Jeremiah’s prayer in Lamentations 5:21 over you today. It says, “Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!” (GNT) I’m living proof that God restores what the enemy stole, and that joy returns. When God restores you, He will rebuild everything better than it was. When He gives your joy back, it will be greater than before. What feels like forever is only a season. Restoration is coming.
If you ever watched Winnie the Pooh, you know who Eeyore and Tigger are. Their dispositions are completely opposite. Eeyore sees the negative in everything and us always down about something. He has The uncanny ability to turn good news into bad news. Tigger is always happy and bouncy. Maybe a little too happy, but he’s just a likable character because of his mood. He can find joy in just about any circumstance and find a reason to bounce around.
As believers, our lives should be marked by joy. I don’t know that we need to be as bouncy and bubbly as Tigger is, but we definitely shouldn’t be like Eeyore. We have the joy of the Lord inside each one of us. Our joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It is a well deep within us that springs up life and gives us strength in the hardest times. I believe we need to get better at tapping into that well of joy so we can radiate hope in a pessimistic world.
Here are some Bible verses on joy.
1. You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy.
Psalm 30:11 GNT
2. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
Romans 12:12 GNB
3. I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing.
John 15:11 AMP
4. Always be joyful.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 NLT
5. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
John 15:11 GNT
There was a time when I was so broken, hurt, and angry that I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my eyes I would see images that got me worked up. After a while of it, I gave up trying to sleep and turned on the TV. As I was flipping through, I found a local, Christian station. All night they played the music of worship songs. As the songs played, they showed pictures of flower covered hillsides and had Bible verses pop in and out. As I listened to the music and read the verses, I began to heal.
One of the verses that came on the screen was Philippians 4:4. It said, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” The old song for that verse, that I had learned as a kid, began to play in my mind. After singing it a few times, I began to sing, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart” and “The joy of the Lord is my strength”. Slowly the anger began to leave me. God’s Word was brining the healing that I needed and eventually restored the joy in my life.
King David was a man who had stresses and worries too. Running a kingdom is hard work. Plus he had many enemies, including his own son Absalom. In Psalm 119:143, David wrote, “I am filled with trouble and anxiety, but your commandments bring me joy” (GNT). No matter how much anxiety or trouble he was facing, he could turn to God’s Word and find joy. He knew he could choose to wallow in his anxiety or he could choose joy.
Each of us have the same choice. We can choose to focus on our troubles and become anxious or we can choose to read the promises of God and find joy. In the darkest nights of my life, I found the joy that comes from God’s Word. Did it take away my situation? No, but it helped me get through it. It reminded me that I can choose to rejoice, I can have joy and that the Lord’s joy gives me strength. With His strength I was able to make it through that time. You too can make it through whatever you’re facing in His strength.
We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving. After enduring such hardships, hunger, and death, the Pilgrims had an abundant harvest and stopped to thank God for His provision. Not taking anything away from that incredible day, but I’ve found it’s easy to praise God during the harvest. It’s easy to celebrate His goodness in times of plenty, but what about in times of hardship? How thankful were they when they were rationed a couple of kernels a day to survive on? How thankful are we in our hardships?
I’ve found that thankfulness and joy come from the heart and not from my circumstances. No matter how hard life gets, how dark our days are, how desolate we feel, we can still find a reason to have joy. It’s so important that we find that reason too. Nehemiah 8:10 reminds us that the joy of the Lord is our strength in times when we don’t have the strength to face the day. Joy gives hope and reminds us that God is still on His throne no matter what comes against us.
Habakkuk painted a picture of dark times in chapter 3:17-18. He wrote, “Even though the fig trees have no fruit and no grapes grow on the vines, even though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no grain, even though the sheep all die and the cattle stalls are empty, I will still be joyful and glad, because the Lord God is my savior” (GNT). He was saying even though the seeds planted didn’t yield a harvest, he’d still be joyful. Even through failure, there is a reason to be glad. Even if your savings are wiped out and there’s no food on your table, you can give thanks.
Don’t let the enemy use circumstances to steal your joy. Don’t let the thief come in and take your focus off of your provider. No matter how bad life gets, we must purpose in our hearts to find joy so we keep our perspective right. We can say, “Even so, it is well with my soul.” We can say, “I will still be joyful and glad,” because God is still on His throne and our circumstances will never change that. We can find joy in the pain. We can find hope in desperation because the Lord God is our savior. It won’t change our circumstances, but it will change our perspective. It will give us strength to endure anything. Find your joy in the Lord, not in your circumstances.
People draw their strength from many things. In sports, you’ll often hear of a team who had a big comeback to win. They will draw on that later in the season and it will give them strength to keep trying the next time they’re down. In business, many companies draw their strength from how much they have in the bank. If a company invests in themselves and their future along with a big bank account, we would say that’s a strong company.
For us, there’s inner strength and outer strength. Outer strength comes from lifting weights and exercising. Inner strength is much different. You can be strong on the outside, but weak on the inside. You can’t exercise anything to become strong on the inside. When adversity comes, many people tend to worry and become anxious. Some just try to weather the storm. Those with an inner strength seem to be able to handle anything though.
When my life was flipped upside down and the storm wouldn’t seem to quit, I remember just trying to make it through each minute. I thought if I could survive that minute, I could survive the storm. As I lay in bed one night, I remembered a song from my childhood. I began to sing softly, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” I sang it over and over. I was reminding myself that on my own, I didn’t have the strength to survive, but through God’s strength I did.
As I read Psalm 84:5, I think about those long, sleepless nights. The Psalmist wrote, “What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord” (NLT). He knew that you can find joy in the midst of your pain and suffering if you find your strength in God. That strength comes first by handing Him your problem. Admiring you can’t do it on your own is the first step. When we give it to Him, the sufficiency of His grace washes over our life and we find strength in Him.
From my experience, the storm will not end when you do that. What changes is how you see the storm and how you respond to it. God can give you His joy in the midst of sorrow. He can give you the strength to walk on water even when the storm rages if we keep our eyes on Him. The strength of the Lord will not fail you in your time of need. It’s something you can rely on over and over no matter how bad things get. Don’t try to go through your storm alone. Find your strength in the Lord and let Him provide you with the shelter you need.
I’ve been a sales trainer for a few years, and one thing has been consistent. When most people show up for training, they’re not happy. They want to know if class is really going to take the full time. By the end of class though, many of them change their attitudes. They’ll walk out and say, “Thanks. I didn’t think I needed this, but I learned something.” Our attitude towards training is much like our attitude towards troubles in life. We don’t want them or see a need for them. However, when we’ve made it through them, we find ourselves stronger.
I think James was trying to make that same correlation for us in James 1:2-3. He wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (NLT). Joy is usually the last emotion that I pair with troubles and trials, but James says they’re an opportunity for us to have it.
I’ve said before that joy is not dependent on your circumstances, happiness is. Joy comes from deep within. It looks at your big picture, while happiness looks at the little one. Joy is something you choose to be no matter what. Each of us choose our attitude in our circumstances. If we don’t, our circumstances will choose our attitude for us. In most cases, it chooses the wrong attitude. Choosing Joy gives you the strength to endure whatever comes your way.
The second part of that verse is where we get our Joy from. We don’t look at the current trouble, but the end result. What do trials produce in us? Endurance. Verse 4 says, “So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” If you can train yourself to keep the end in mind, you will learn to handle troubles a lot better. Don’t waste times of trouble. Use them for what they’re for: growth and endurance. By choosing the wrong attitude, you prolong your time in them, and miss what God has for you. Keep the end in mind, and choose Joy.
When going through difficult seasons in life, it often feels like they will never end. The hits seem to keep coming. After a while, it’s easy to quit looking for the lesson and to start wondering what we’ve done to deserve it. Our prayers that ask God to restore us seem to fall on deaf ears and we question whether God remembers who we are. As time goes on. It becomes the new normal for life and we wonder if we will ever be restored to that place of joy.
Joseph, the guy with the coat of many colors, went through an extended period of hardship too. His season of sorrow lasted 13 years. He was betrayed by his family, lied about having his good name smeared, wrongfully thrown in prison, and forgotten. This season lasted 13 years of his life. We think God has forgotten us after 13 weeks. This man endured 13 years of sorrow, yet he remained faithful to God throughout it. We know this because God blessed him during that time.
Just like all seasons, there will be a turning point in your life. It will not last forever. When we are faithful to God even when we can’t see Him, hear Him, or feel His presence; He will reward us and restore us. He takes what seems like an end and turns it into a beginning. He takes a period of sorrow and turns it into a lifetime of joy. He takes the hardest times in our lives and shows us the greatest grace we’ll ever see.
When Joseph’s life was restored and things were going well, he had two sons. Their names are very telling of what God will do for us when we’ve been faithful. Genesis 41:51-52 says, “And Joseph called the firstborn Manasseh [making to forget], For God, said he, has made me forget all my toil and hardship and all my father’s house. And the second he called Ephraim [to be fruitful], For [he said] God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (AMP). God will help you to forget how hard the struggle was and make you fruitful in that time.
Jeremiah 18:7-8 echoes this for us. It says, “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit” (NLT). Even in your time of sorrow or your drought, God will cause you to be fruitful if you trust in Him. Even when everything in you tells you that God doesn’t see you and that He doesn’t care, stay faithful to Him. Your restoration is on the way.