Many people are struggling today to be happy. Discouragement and depression prevail in the lives of millions. Much of this is due to negative circumstances that occur in our lives. Perhaps a loved one passes away, or a spouse cheats. Maybe it’s chronic pain. It could be that a friend betrayed you. Many times people get down and struggle for no reason at all.
Is it possible to find happiness in this life?
I believe it is. But I don’t think it is happiness that we are really looking for. Happiness seems fleeting. I believe we are looking for something more substantial. Something deeper. Joy. Dallas Willard said that joy is the “pervasive sense of well-being.” It’s a state of being that is consistent and has little or nothing to do with our changing circumstances. The psalmist wrote, “You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvest of grain and new wine.” Psalm 4:7.
To be sure, there is a level of joy we experience when we attain or have an abundance of nice things. There is no denying that. Most would agree that it would be exhilarating to win the lottery. However, as we have clearly seen and experienced, the joy that comes from new things quickly fades. The psalmist reveals that there is a joy available to us that is greater than having an abundance of our favorite things. It is a joy that is other worldly. It is a joy that is rooted in God. God, specifically, Jesus is the source of this joy that goes beyond circumstances. And, He delights to give it to us should we seek it.
Jesus wants to Fill you with His Joy
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11. To have a full cup of something means that you have no more room for more. What a stunning truth! Jesus wants to fill your soul with His joy. Can you imagine? Think of what it would be like to live out the rest of your days with a soul brimming over with God’s joy. Imagine the quality of life you would experience. Picture what kind of impact you could have on the people around you. Believe it or not, this is the life that God designed you to live. It is possible for you to live with consistent joy every day.
How do we get it?
Jesus revealed his plan to fill us with his joy in the things he had just “spoken” to his disciples about a vine and some branches. He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5. The joy of Jesus comes to us in the same way the sap of the vine gets to the branches. It flows. Because the branch is connected to the vine it can receive the nutrients it needs to grow fruit. Joy is produced in our lives as we stay connected to Jesus.
We can “abide” in two ways:
1. You must stay in his word.
As we take the word of God into our hearts and minds through meditation and memorization we come to know the mind and heart of God. Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life” John 6:63. The word of God brings us joy. As we meditate on it day and night (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2) it lifts our eyes to God. It reminds us of his goodness. His faithfulness. We are comforted by his promises. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight…” Jeremiah 15:16
2. You must be constant in prayer.
Prayer is simply talking to God. The apostle Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing” I Thessalonians 5:17. Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived in the 14th century took these words literally and made his life an experiment to see if he could pray all of the time. His life was so profoundly changed that he became one of the most influential Christians to ever live. Today we still have his writing captured in a book called The Practice of the Presence of God. Through a continual conversation with God, Brother Lawrence’s life was filled with the joy of God so much so that almost everyone noticed. Consistent prayer helps us to maintain an acute awareness of God’s presence. It is the presence of God that is the source of joy. King David wrote, “In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore”. Psalm 16:11
In the midst of the difficulties of life we can find consistent joy by taking God’s word into our minds and hearts and by practicing the presence of God through prayer.
Danny Anderson is the Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Church located south of Indianapolis. Danny has hands-on experience in transitioning a church, creating and casting a new vision, simplifying programs, building teams, and launching new campuses. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Jackie, his sons Andrew and Beau, and his daughter Ruby.