“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4
Until recently, I struggled with wrapping my mind around the command of this verse. I could understand rejoicing. I could even understand being “full of joy in the Lord,” but the first word in this verse made it so difficult for me to understand and apply –
How could it be possible to always be full of joy? How could it be possible to always rejoice? Even Christians were bound to have bad days that weren’t full of joy… right?
If you had asked me that question a year ago, I would have said something like, “Of course! You can’t be happy all the time. Being a Christian doesn’t make life easier, but know that God’s got you and that He has a plan,” and, although those words would have been true, you would have left our conversation still feeling like your relationship with The Lord was lacking something.
I know this because I’ve been there. I’ve been the one asking the question about always being joyful in The Lord. It’s confusing. It’s difficult to understand this “always” joy that the bible speaks of. But I’m writing about this subject today because I have been discovering this pure joy over the past few months – and I just had to share.
Before I tell you where to find the joy that Paul is speaking about in Philippians, let me tell you where it is not found. Through observing and speaking to others, and through my own personal experience, God has revealed to me the following things:
Joy is not found at the bottom of a bottle.
Joy is not found in playing a song on repeat because you can relate to it.
Joy is not found in sexual immorality.
Joy is not found in a reply to a text message.
Joy is not found at the crazy parties.
Joy is not found in outward appearance, or in trying to improve your looks.
Joy is not found in an increasing number in your savings account.
Joy is not found in writing a blog post.
Joy is not found in popularity.
Joy is not found in hanging out with your friends.
Joy is not found in making good grades and intensely studying.
Joy is not found in obsessing over your own health.
Joy is not found in buying the perfect house of perfect car.
Joy is not found in vacation time.
Joy is not found in working so much.
Joy is not found in the outcome of a sports event.
Joy is not found in doing all the “right” things.
Joy is not found in finding the “perfect” job.
Joy is not found in finding “the one.”
The list could go on and on and on, but, to summarize,
Joy is not found in the world.
All of these things bring brief satisfaction – maybe even a brief season of happiness, but will ultimately leave us feeling like something is missing from our hearts. We all know this. We all know that none of these things truly satisfy our souls. So, then, what does? Where can we find pure joy?
The joy that Paul is talking about is found in one place, and one place only –
An intimate, life-changing, unfailing, relationship with Jesus Christ.
Satan uses the “stuff” of this world to trick us into believing that we can experience joy without fully knowing our Savior. I believe that Satan has tricked many Christians into believing that they can experience the joy of God despite having one foot in the world, and one foot in God’s kingdom. A good friend once explained to me that you can’t be in a relationship with someone if you have one foot in, and one foot out – it just doesn’t work. Your loyalty is divided and the relationship is bound to fail. Your relationship with Jesus Christ is the exact same way.
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17
Pure joy is not found in the cravings and pleasures of this world – Satan’s kingdom. Pure joy is found in a heavenly relationship with Jesus Christ – God’s kingdom. For a long time I tried to experience God’s joy while still having a foot in Satan’s kingdom. I always came up short and never felt fulfilled. God is clear in His word that He wants nothing to do with the things of this world. So of course I wasn’t feeling The Lord’s joy. My loyalty was divided. If you want to experience the true joy of the Holy Spirit (and trust me, you do), then I urge you to strip off every worldly thing that is chaining you to Satan’s kingdom, and allow your relationship with your Heavenly Father to take it’s place in your heart.
God spills the joy that comes from your relationship with Him into other aspects of your life when you allow Him to. Since discovering the true joy of God, I have seen my relationships with my family and friends skyrocket. I have seen God work His joy into my job, my chores, and my hobbies. I notice the Lord’s presence and peace more today than I ever have before. But I had to strip off the weights of this world first. I had to run away from the sin and ghosts of my past and press forward to my Lord’s kingdom. It hurt. It was difficult. But, in the midst of the hurt, in the midst of the confusion, I experienced something for the first time in my life. I experienced something so beautiful and perfect that I couldn’t believe that I had been living so long without it. I experienced the joy of the Holy Spirit.
I encourage you to be brave, strip off the weights of this world, and run joyfully with your Heavenly Father as He leads you down His path for your life. Yes, times as a Christian are not always easy or happy, but I serve a God who never changes. I serve a God who, despite difficult or sad times, enables me to always be full of joy and The Holy Spirit. When I am sad, I am filled with joy. When I am hurting, I am joyful. When I am confused and lost, I rejoice in The Lord. It’s a joy that doesn’t make sense, and it’s a joy that I can’t explain, but I promise that it’s a joy that’s worth sacrificing the temporary pleasures of this world for. Jesus Christ’s perfection covers my imperfections, and for that reason, I rejoice. I’m done being one foot in, one foot out when it comes to my relationship with God. I’m two feet in for The Lord, now. I’m two feet in for His “always” joy. Are you?