I have found that sorrow is not only a natural part of life, but it is something we deal with more often than we would like to admit. While there is sorrow all around us, there are times when our sorrow is deep, long-lasting and at times, all encompassing. Sorrow, when left alone can lead to depression, despair and total discouragement. I have found that type of sorrow can grip you and take hold of your entire life and keep you in a state of seeing “no light at the end of the tunnel”. I also know this is a place that Satan would like to keep every believer. For if we wallow in this grief and despair we are living under self-pity and allowing the enemy to win the battle. Sometimes it takes a Godly friend to confront someone who is in this state and give them sound Biblical advice. Biblical joy is a choice that one MUST make if he or she is to live ABOVE the circumstances of life. Biblical joy, as I have told my children, is not something that comes naturally, but is a CHOICE to walk in the light, in spite of our present difficulties. Over the last 3 years I have had to choose Biblical joy more often than anytime in my life to get through a day, or an hour or sometimes the present moment. Happiness is nothing more than an emotional feeling of glee when things are going our way, but this emotion only lasts when we get what we want like a small child. Anybody, believer or non-believer, can have happiness, but only a child of the king can have Biblical joy.
A dictionary definition of happiness is “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” The definition of the word “rejoice,” from which our word “joy” comes, is “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad.” Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times.
The word “joy” comes from the Greek root wordcharaand means “to be exceedingly glad.”James 1:2says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials.” How could we ever consider going through difficulties and trials a reason to feel joy?James 1:3-4 gives us a clue when it says, “Knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The deep, abiding joy comes as we persevere through trials, with God’s help, and our faith matures and is strengthened. So happiness tends to be fleeting and depends upon temporal factors like circumstances or other people.
Joy, on the other hand, is true contentment that comes from internal factors like our faith in the Lord. True joy is everlasting and not dependent upon circumstances. The book of Philippians is a great study in the difference between joy and happiness. Written by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome, this book uses the words “joy,” “rejoice,” and “joyful” 16 times and teaches us how to have true contentment in Jesus Christ, despite our circumstances. In chains and aware that his life was coming to an end, Paul talks about his faith and trust in Christ and how it had changed his whole perspective on suffering. InPhilippians 1:12-24, Paul says that because of his two-year imprisonment (Acts 28:30), the whole Roman guard heard the gospel from him, and it had even spread throughout all of Rome. In verse 18 Paul says, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.” Paul goes on to encourage others to have peace knowing that God strengthens us (Philippians 4:13) and “supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
So the Bible teaches that happiness is fleeting because it often depends on things outside of ourselves, but true joy is eternal because it is based on our relationship with Jesus Christ, which is itself an everlasting source of joy.
Happiness is more momentary, as it is a result of short-term contentment, while joy is long lasting. There were so many days, when my life was turned upside down, that I had to choose Biblical Joy.
When I was in my deepest and darkest moments, and there were more in the first year of our ordeal, than in all of my life combined, there were days and days I did NOT choose joy. I saw the circumstances, knew it came from those who claimed to be believers and pastors/deacons/SS teacher, and could not see past my hurt and pain. I asked God why. Why would you allow this to come upon me and my family? I have served you for over 20 years in the ministry, left our families, and gave it all for you and this is what I get in return. I was mad at those who did this TO us, but in the end there was some bitterness and resentment towards God. I understood hurt and disappointment from the world, but this was coming from within “the church” and from those who were pastors and leaders. This was coming from those who were trying to cover up their own sins and transgressions and were throwing me and my family “under the bus” to save their own skin or so they thought.
In the end I HAD to choose joy. I HAD to trust in Him, no matter the feelings and deep hurt. I HAD to believe he was and is in control, even when my life was out of control. I HAD to choose joy. What else could I do? While this should always be our first response, there are times in our lives when it isn’t. What I should have turned to in the beginning, was where God brought me to in the end.
When you lose your ministry, your income, your reputation (even though we were exonerated), your house, all of your savings and are working 3 part time jobs at $8-10 an hour that is easier said than done. We had no insurance, but needed medicine and doctor’s visits, but could not afford them. We could not pay our house note and had to turn the house back over to the bank. We lived under a cloud of suspicion by those who knew the truth, but kept it under a cloud of confusion and lies. My wife and I felt all alone and without direction. We had lost everything, but the Lord, each other, our children and those who were close to us and were there by our side EVERY day. The pain, grief, sorrow and endless nights with little sleep wore on us, but it especially took its toll on me and my walk with the Lord, relationship with my wife and children. I hurt to the point I could not feel anymore. I grieved to the point I could not cry anymore. I felt so much pain that I could not feel pain or hurt anymore. While I never considered taking my life, I had no reason to care about life anymore. My life was in disarray and I was spinning out of control. I used to always love life and looked forward to the next day. My wife and I used to say we hated it when it got dark, because the nights were so long and never seemed to end. But then morning came and reality sat in that my life mirrored nothing of the past. This is when we choose Biblical Joy.
Psalm 30 English Standard Version
Joy Comes with the Morning
I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.[a]
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.[b]
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.[c]
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death,[d]
if I go down to the pit?[e]
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”
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!
This is my prayer. I want my life to be in God’s hands daily. I want to always choose Biblical Joy, no matter the circumstances.
The past 3 years have forever changed me and my family. I am living 1,000 miles from where I was, working 2 secular jobs and starting over financially. I am learning to trust again, though this has not been easy for me or my wife. Trusting pastors and leadership will take some time and God’s work in my life.
1 Thessalonians 5
18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.