Our next installment of Prayer A-Z is the letter J, for Joy. All Prayer A-Z posts can be found here.
It is not the same as happiness, even though "happiness" would probably be included in most definitions of the word. In the Kathy Shaull version of the spiritual dictionary (which exists only in my head, BTW) it is defined as a feeling of pleasure/good spiritedness that exists regardless of circumstances. Happiness is more circumstance-based.
Joy in trials?
The primary reason I think it can't rely on circumstances rests in James 1:2-3, "Consider it all JOY, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." Just having the words "joy" and "trials" in the same sentence should be enough to make you at least consider what I'm saying.
This doesn't mean that in the moments surrounding those trials that we are to skip around town, throwing rose petals into the air. God made us with emotions, and He knows there are some moments in life that hold the potential to knock the wind out of our sails.
Where does it come from?
God is our supplier. More specifically, our Hope in God is our Source. Romans 15:13 says, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all JOY and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
It seems to me that we most need Heavenly HOPE when we are stuck in the midst of those trials. I mean, think about it. When life is all sunshine and roses, hope abounds. It is in the darkest of times that we are in the greatest need for HOPE, so that is when God fills us with JOY.
How to signup for some:
- Joy of Salvation-primarily, we rely on the joy of simply being made right with God. Even if everything around you is falling apart, the knowledge that God loves and already forgave you can be enough to reset a negative mindset. (If you don't know Christ as your personal Savior, please meet my Jesus here.) Unfortunately, as humans with a limited attention span, we can forget that joy and let it slip away. It's an easy fix to ask for it back. See Psalm 51:12, "Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit."
- Memorize Scripture-Not only does scripture memory help keep us connected to God by being a preventive measure (Ps. 119:11, "For I have hid Thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee."), but it also injects joy into our hearts. Ps. 119:111, "I have Your decrees as a heritage forever indeed, they are the joy of my heart."
How should we handle it?
One of the most interesting things I noticed as I was researching for this post was the sheer number of times God's Word tells us exactly what to do with our it. Are we to keep it bottled up and just smile with our internal meter running in high gear? Nope.
So what should we do? We are told to sing and/or shout. In fact, God even calls it forth(commands it to come) in Psalm 65:8. We should offer sacrifices to God with shouts of joy when our enemies surround us. Yep, I'm thinking that'll freak them out a bit. Read through the Psalms and tally joyful songs and shouts -- and service.
Serve the LORD with gladness, come before His presence with singing.
Sing, Shout, Serve - with the bubbly stuff He gives us. Bottom line: know God. Have joy. Don't keep it to yourself. Tell someone.
Father God, we thank you and praise You for the hope You give through the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. Give us a boldness to sing, shout and serve others with this joy as we serve you.