“Rejoice in the Lord always.”
If you’re like me, you read a line like this one (Philippians 4:4) and you think, “Well, that might work for some people. People who don’t have teenagers. Or a leaky roof. Or a colonoscopy scheduled for tomorrow.”
We live in a world where it can sometimes be tough to be joyful. People hurt us. Money gets tight. Circumstances—ranging from bad hair days to ill-behaved children to frightening medical conditions—conspire to sap our confidence. And, particularly for women, fear and worry can lurk around every corner, ready to shape every piece of bad news or uncertainty into a torpedo to aim at our faith.
Is it even possible to have joy—always? Yes. Yes! Joy might not come naturally, but we can tap into the secret of a joy-filled life if we are willing to embrace a simple truth: It’s not about us. It’s not about our happiness, our goals, or our success. It’s about bringing honor and glory to God.
If that sounds a little lofty, look at it this way: If your focus is on yourself (how you feel, who you want to be, what you want your kids to achieve, etc.), then your joy meter is at the mercy of people and circumstances. When things go your way and people behave like you want them to, you are happy. When they don’t, your joy disappears.
If, on the other hand, you shine the spotlight on God, all those people and circumstances that threaten to steal your joy lose their power. When you realize that it’s all about God—and that he is in control, and he promises to use even the yucky stuff to accomplish his purposes—things like fear and worry don’t stand a chance.
The Bible puts it like this: “Consider it a sheer gift (the NIV says pure joy), friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4, MSG)
This week, as you meet people who hurt or annoy you, circumstances that frighten you, or worry that threatens to choke you, take a step back. Ask God to use the situation for his glory, and to bring about maturity and fullness in your life. Make a deliberate decision to trust him, because he’s got you covered.
And then relax. Because no one can take away your joy.