Joy comes to those who take hold of it. Just like enjoyment comes to the Gudgels when we spend time at the beach.
Over the course of our adult lives, Bernice and I have lived near the Pacific Ocean twice. For twenty-five years we lived 15 miles from Malibu. And now for the past six years we’ve lived in Northern California, 27 miles from Half-Moon Bay.
Pretty much every time we drive over to the beach, at some point we find ourselves saying, “We need to do this more often.” Just being near the ocean puts a smile on our faces and fills up our emotional tanks with really good stuff.
For us, the ocean is there for the taking – just a short drive away.
You’ve Got to Take Hold of It
Joy is like that. It’s there for the taking. It’s an emotional state that God wants for His children. It’s the second quality listed in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Joy is something a Christ-follower must “take hold of” like Christ takes hold of those He saves, both in this fallen world and for eternity. The Lord wants His adopted children to take hold of joy now and for all eternity.
In the Worst of Times?
But how is that possible when life isn’t always joyful?
Habakkuk discovered how to live with joy even in the worst of times.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 – Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Talk about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. No fruit after days, months, and years of labor. And no sheep or cattle to sell or even eat. That’s enough reason for doom and gloom. But Habakkuk chose to take hold of a different response.
He rejoiced. In the midst of a really bad time he was filled with joy. Why? Because his joy wasn’t based on his circumstances, but on the God who controlled his circumstances (Isaiah 14:24; 45:7).
Paul was in prison in Rome when he told the church at Philippi to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4). In spite of his circumstances, he took hold of joy, and he encouraged them to do the same.
And he tells us to do the same.
How is That Possible?
There are many ways to rejoice in the Lord. We can focus on who the Lord is (a good, loving, faithful God), or on things the Lord provides (food, covering, health, life).
For me, my go to way of rejoicing in the Lord is to focus on His presence. David said, “In your presence there is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11b). Stepping away from the busyness and stress of life and simply focusing on God’s presence fills me with joy.
Did someone’s presence at Thanksgiving elevate your joy? A cadet who returned home for Thanksgiving raised the levels of joy for his family. Even though his leave from the Air Force Academy was brief, his presence boosted everyone’s joy.
The Lord can do that for us too – in abundant measure. He helps us in times of trouble. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is right here right now. He is with us, forever.
It’s one thing to know that fact, it’s another to rejoice in it. To give God thanks that the Lord is present. That He knows. He cares. He sees. He’s near.
Joy No Matter What
When we intentionally focus on the Lord, we will have joy no matter what our circumstances may be. In good times and in bad times, we will take hold of joy.
Paul tells us to rejoice two times in Philippians 4:4. Why did he repeat himself? For the very same reason you repeat yourself. To make sure someone hears what you are saying. To make sure they got it.
So, did you get it? God wants us to rejoice. Not just when things are going good. Joy is always there for the taking.
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