Believe it or not, but I still endure different kinds of sufferings. These are often caused by circumstances I encounter in life and, as honest as I can be, I let circumstances rob me of the peace and joy I should maintain. I worry too much about too many things, even things I shouldn’t be worrying about. Yet, here I am.
My favorite book (or letter in this case) from the Bible is definitely James. I still remember going through a Francis Chan Bible study about the book of James a couple of years ago.
The main focus around the first chapter was all about the “testing of the faith”, but if you read through the whole book, it all connects back to this theme in one way or the other.
After James’s greeting in the first verse, the next few verses continue saying:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But what is joy? How is it different from happiness? Are we to remain joyous even through the most difficult times?
When I first read through the whole book of James, I was very convicted in many things, but I also got to learn so many more things as I continue to discern through life as a believer in Christ. One of the first things I learned as I was learning more about God’s Word was that joy and happiness are two very different concepts.
According to biblical definitions, joy is described as a feeling of good pleasure and happiness that is dependent on who Jesus is rather than on who we are or what is happening around us. Joy comes from the Holy Spirit, abiding in God’s presence and from hope in His word. (Rimiller, n.d.)
The Greek word for joy in James 1 is charan (χαρὰν) which is derived from the word chara (χαρά) meaning delight, gladness, a source of joy. (Greek Lexicon, n.d.)
Something that everyone has probably heard about joy is that joy is not dependent on circumstances we feel in our lives while happiness is very much dependent on how things are going in our lives and we feel happy or unhappy over that particular circumstance.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks to His disciples about the commandments they should keep if they truly love God and Jesus declares to them:
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.– John 15:10-12
Jesus also tells us in John 16:33:
33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
Have you ever seen a verse where it’s mentioned that life will be smooth sailing while here on earth? If you have, I will very much appreciate you showing me. On the contrary, Jesus tells us as it is: “you’re going to go through stuff and it may not be blissful, but I’ve already overcome this world. And while you’re at it, let my joy be in you.”
That is such a soothing thing to remember as we go through hardships of life. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve let the enemy rob me of my joy and fulness in Christ for the smallest and biggest inconveniences in life. I just remind myself that this life here on earth is for a while and my eternity will be at peace with joy in the Kingdom of God, and as they say in Spanish: “y se me pasó.”
Don’t let your life depend on happiness, because this world can only offer you so much before it breaks you down again. We’re humans, we get disappointed and we often don’t know how to deal with it. So, seek joy.
Jesus is the ultimate peace and joy you’ll ever experience and you’ve got to believe it in your heart. If you just depend on your emotions and the circumstances that easily affect them, you will guarantee yourself a good dose of disappointment and unhappiness. We have to learn to live past that because circumstances won’t always be positive, so seek to find the joy that doesn’t depend on any circumstance. Be unnerved by the things or people that try to steal your joy that should be in Christ alone.
Nothing and I mean nothing, can compare to what we will see when this world has passed, as Romans 8:18 says:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18
I’ll leave you with a few verses for you to keep in your heart, speak to others, and remind yourself of when you feel the pressure of life hit you.
22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. – John 16:22
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. – Romans 15:13
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice – Philippians 4:4
5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials. – 1 Peter 1:5-6
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
– Psalm 30:11