There are two photos pinned to the wall just above my desk. One of them depicts a young man standing at a pulpit, his mouth split with a wide smile as he animates his discussion with open hands. His eyes seem fixed on a single spot in the crowd before him, perhaps seeing something visible only to himself. Four months ago, as I stood in front of that pulpit to deliver an impromptu speech, a camera captured the emotion most important to me over the past few months: joy.
My unexpected speech took place during a soccer award ceremony. My team, the Cross Lanes Christian Schools Warriors (high school soccer) was fully assembled in the CLCS gymnasium, joined by the middle school boys and high school girls teams.
After several of the proceedings had passed, the seniors were asked to stay and speak a few words. Being a senior, I, of course, remained in the front with the rest, well aware that the two captains had prepared eloquent speeches for the occasion. Imagine my surprise when one of my friends leaned over and whispered, “You know you’re supposed to share a few memories and speak a little, right?”
My heart dropped. I had not received this information, leaving me completely unprepared to do a task I would have previously had several days to complete. I was left with a single option: come up with a small speech on the spot.
By God’s grace, I was able to compose a nice speech discussing my coach’s dedication to his job, and, to my astonishment, the more I spoke, the happier I became. Despite the fact that I had never before spoken in front of a large audience and had never taken a speech class, I was enjoying public speaking. Despite all odds, I found joy in something completely unexpected.
Fun little story aside, joy has become a real issue of late. I have allowed far too many things to affect my joy. Family, friends, politics, the NFL, and schoolwork have all become real joykillers. Extending further into the real world, money, life, health, and relationships are all extremely common pieces of our joy or lack thereof. Let’s be honest here- how many people can you name that exude true, Godly joy? I could probably count these people on two hands.
Over the past weeks, God has used a very influential lady in my life to teach me His joy. Through her personal testimony and writings, I have been consistently reminded of three facts:
1: Joy is held in the heart, not the head. Outside of Christ, when our heart is heavy, our joy is lacking. Therefore, when we open our heart to Christ and allow Him to lift us out of the mire and muck of the world, our joy is completed and our hearts encouraged.
2: Real joy comes from Christ. While the world abounds with trinkets and gadgets clamoring for our time and claiming themselves as a source of happiness, lasting joy is found within Christ and no other.
3: Our joy begins and is completed in Christ. Because He is the only source of legitimate joy, He must be the beginning (and therefore, the end) to all joy.
I have also been reminded of the joy brought from the simple things. Prayer, time in the Bible, and enjoyment of God’s creation all ultimately stem from God, keeping to the three previous points. In allowing Christ into our hearts, we open the door to true joy, putting us on the path to receiving this joy through the simpler things God puts into our life.
On the melancholy days, take time and enjoy God’s creation.
On the difficult days, talk to God.
On the good days, sing praises of thanks and hymns of gratitude.
Do not allow anything to affect your joy. For example, look at Paul. As Acts 16:25 says, after being put in jail for spreading the Gospel, Paul and Silas were found “praying and singing hymns to God”. These men were singing in jail?
Imagine if something like this happened in modern day times. All of a sudden, without warning, three beefy men covered in tattoos and piercings, convicted for first-degree murder, begin loudly singing “Joy to the World” in their cells, much to the disbelief of their stunned guards. What do you think would happen?
What can we learn from this amusing image? Sing songs in jail? By no means! Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
In Christ’s presence, there is fullness (completeness) of joy. In difficult times, our joy is renewed through Christ because He went through the most difficult time that our pain and suffering would bring growth because of the forgiveness of sin. In the peaceful times, our joy is found through Christ’s simple gifts.
What’s affecting your joy? Is your happiness found in Christ, or in the world?