In some of my darker moments over the last year or so I have cried out to God and asked him why this life has to hurt so much. I felt the darkness wrap around my heart and mind such that it seemed my joy had been stolen from me. But even in those times I had something, or rather someone, who grounded me, who made me able to put one foot in front of the other, who assured me that he was bigger than my fears and would keep his promises to be a light to my path. While the pain and ache of spiritual oppression is unlike anything I have ever experienced, and the sorrow of deep loss is something you don’t simply “get over,” Jesus has made his presence known to me in ways words cannot adequately express. And I knew that though my tears flowed and flowed, and still do, for the grief and ache of living in a sin penetrated world, my joy could not, would not… will not be extinguished. Ever. But it was in the wrestling with those dark realities that my joy was refined and renewed.
My joy in some of those moments wasn’t a happy feeling or the belief that I’ve given up so much for God that I know he owes me big either now or at some point in the future. My joy was the assurance that I have a savior who was grieving with me. And it was the joy that one day all will be made new. And all that Christ won on the cross and through his victorious conquest of the grave is mine as well. These realities made me feel safe when the bottom seemed to be giving way. But with each step, like Peter on the water, I found a firm place that I could not and would not find by looking for it. It was found only by looking to Christ and taking that single step. He was teaching me where my joy must always be found.
It wasn’t in my home. It wasn’t in my friends. It wasn’t in our retirement funds or our ability to put down deep roots. It wasn’t in our ability to keep hundreds of plates spinning. It wasn’t in my family members staying healthy and alive. It wasn’t in anything I could touch or see with my eyes. Those things are just stuff. Good stuff. Gifts from the Father of Heavenly Lights. But really… just stuff.
Friend, if people or situations have somehow gained the power to steal your joy, your joy is not in Jesus… it is in Jesus’s “stuff.” Joy that is found in Jesus cannot be taken away from you even when “friends fail you and foes assail you.”
It cannot be taken away when the rug is pulled out from under you. It cannot be taken when you can barely remember how to laugh. Joy in Jesus means you have lashed yourself to one who stayed on a cross that couldn’t hold him for the joy set before him. That means your joy can be secure through the fiercest storms life can throw at you, whether they be storms of spiritual depression, relationship betrayal, loss of jobs, dreams, worldly security and possessions, loved ones, health, or anything else.
But friend, finding your joy in Jesus doesn’t mean you won’t wet your pillow with tears at times. Your joy is found in someone called The Man of Sorrows. There will be weeping. But… there is a joy set before him… and it’s the same exact joy that is set before you. Don’t mistake comfort for joy in Jesus. They are unmistakably different.