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As Christians, we know we are called and empowered toward lives full of joy. How could we not be joyous, our King has risen and He has freed us from the power of sin and the grip of death!
If we are honest, though, we may not always feel joyous. And this is a hard thing to admit because we may also feel guilty about it. Why am I not more joyous? What do I have to do to increase my joy?
I think it is helpful in these times to remind ourselves of where the source of our joy is found, and where we can turn to increase our joy.
Joy Comes from Jesus
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)
A few verses earlier in John 15, Jesus says “I am the vine; you are the branches.” He is saying that if you abide in Him, He sustains you. He provides everything you need for life. It is all up to Him, and He will give graciously and generously to you.
Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). If you feel like you are running low on joy, take up the promise of our loving Savior who has promised to sustain us.
Notice too in Jesus’s words that we are to have His words abiding in us. I have found many times in my own life that if I’m lacking in joy it is because I have been abiding with someone else’s words instead of Jesus’s.
Returning to His Word is what works to increase my joy.
Joy Comes from the Holy Spirit
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace… (Galatians 5:22)
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
The point I want to make in this section is just to say that joy is the work of the Holy Spirit. That means at least two things:
First, joy is not something you have to make on your own. If you are lacking in joy, this is not the time to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” this is the time to depend on God. If you are empty, then God can fill you up.
Second, joy is not something to boast about or to be jealous of. If you have joy, and someone else does not, what you have is the work of the Spirit. You did not earn it; you cannot boast as if you accomplished joy. If someone has joy, and you do not, know that God promises the same fruit to you!
Joy Comes from Others
Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. (2 Corinthians 7:13)
This is why it is so important that we be in regular, committed Christian community—by which I mean the church. Be in a setting where you can refresh and be refreshed by the joy and faith of others.
If you are struggling with joy, and you are not regularly attending a local church, I would urge you, plead with you, to not miss out on one of the most important things Christ has called us to.
Praise to Jesus!
Everything good we have is thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And joy is one of the wonderful things we have been given. Here are some extra notes on joy that I hope will be encouraging to you:
With Jesus, Fear Will Not End Joy
So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:8)
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see Jesus’s tomb. And when they were there an angel came and he was a terrifying sight (Matthew 28:2–3). The guards who were there “became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4) because of their fear.
But notice what is said about the women, who were followers of Jesus. After the angel told them Jesus had risen, and that they would see Him in Galilee, they left “with fear and great joy.”
They were terrified just like the guards, but the joy they experienced as a result of being Christ’s followers kept them going.
In Jesus, Suffering Cannot Overcome Joy
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
There are times when suffering is so strong in our lives, and joy seems very far away from us. Jesus has been there. When He died on the cross, we are told that He endured it “for the joy that was set before him.”
He knew what God the Father promised for Him, and the knowledge of future joy empowered our Lord to endure unparalleled suffering.
Let’s go back to John 15:11, quoted in the first section above. Jesus said that His joy would be in us. So, the joy promised to Christ is the same joy we can access today. In your suffering, know that Christ suffered too, and rest in the knowledge that he obtained great joy from his endurance and he offers it to you.
Thanks to Jesus, There is More Joy to Come
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)
One glorious day, Christian, you will enter the joy of your master. The present joy we are promised is great, and future joy promised to us is greater than anything we could possibly imagine.
God gives graciously and generously. Just knowing that He is our God helps me increase my joy, right now as I write these words.