July 1, 2016
Keith L. Anderson
How are we to find joy in a world filled with sadness, greed, violence and hate? First, we need to understand what joy is. The Webster’s New World Dictionary says joy is a very glad feeling, happiness and delight. It also says anything causing these feelings is joy. I believe Webster’s definition is a worldly definition. The reason I say this is because joy can be and should be a constant feeling with those of us who call ourselves Christians. As Christians, we should always carry the joy of Christ in our hearts. Make no mistake, I don’t mean, because we have the joy of Christ in our hearts, we should be running around happy all the time. People who decide they are going to be happy no matter what is happening around them scare me. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” Did Jesus weep for Lazarus or, for himself because He knew His time was at hand? He could have even been weeping for the people because of their lack of belief. Whatever the reason, He didn’t put on a smiley face and say, “Praise Me and pass the potatoes. I’m not going to let Lazarus’s death ruin my day.” We should all get sad when we see sadness, greed, violence and hatred destroying lives. However, we should allow the joy of Christ, to help us do something positive about it.
Personally, I have a problem being joyous. I sometimes errantly wear my sadness like it’s some kind of badge of honor. I allow people and situations to steal my joy. The ten o’clock news steals my joy. When a child has been hurt by an adult, my joy goes right out the window and I’m down for the count. When the poor aren’t educated with the same quality as the rich, my joyous heart skips a beat and I become moody and sad. Having those re-actions is normal. Allowing them to change who I am isn’t. However, I and a lot of other caring people sometimes get caught with our joy down. We live there, indignant and angry at the world. Our mouths are full of loaded questions. How can they think this or that? How could someone do this or that? How long will this go on? Being self-righteous, people like me never run out of questions. Consequently, we never come up with an answers either.
So, how do we keep our joy through bad and tough times? One way to keep joy is to stop trying to always be right but rather, seek the truth, which lies within righteousness. This is difficult because we all carry around the sin of wanting to always be right. Even if we are being wronged, as long as we can prove we’re right, we seem to be good with suffering. It called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Here’s an example. In a previous article I mentioned not getting a teaching position at a community college because the person who got the job had a sister on the selection committee. The second I learned of this situation I knew I wasn’t going to get the job. When I was proven right, I enjoyed being right. Yes, I was upset about not getting the position, but I wallowed in righteous indignation, about being right about why I didn’t get the job. I wallowed in that murky sin for quite a long time. Make no mistake it was sinful on my part. Luckily for me, and everyone else, we’re all forgiven, by the love and joy of Christ.
Another way of keeping joy is not to do good to people for the reason of getting something back. Help others because it gives you joy. That doesn’t mean we don’t have expectations from people. It means we don’t set people up so they can fail. This only gives us another reason to jump into our self-righteous act.
Probably the number one reason our joy goes away is because we don’t understand God’s brand of forgiveness. We should be joyous knowing God forgives us, even when we don’t forgive ourselves. Instead we tell ourselves, God can’t forgive me for this one. Our society helps us to believe God doesn’t forgive, by being so quick to condemn anyone who does anything society considers wrong. Nine times out of ten, the condemners have or are committing the same sin. However, our society can’t wait to see the shortcomings of anyone in the public eye broadcasted throughout the media. We also can’t wait to get to the water cooler to give our in-depth analysis.
The bottom line is this, joy was meant as a feeling to share. The second joy is trapped inside us, it disappears deep within. It gets covered up by indignation and pride. But, when we give joy freely it somehow replenishes itself within us. Don’t try to imitate those walking around with self manufactured joy. Self-manufactured joy just covers-up sadness and pain. Pray for real joy. You’ll know the joy is real because, in real joy you’re able to be sad and disappointed, but because of the joy of Christ in your heart, you’ll come up with solutions.