When recently asked my personal vision statement, I immediately thought of my favorite verses that have served as my “motto” since high school: “Be JOYFUL always, PRAY continuously, give THANKS in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). People often question what God’s will is for their lives, and the above verses are clear. No matter what direction we head, no matter what challenges we face, no matter what our present or future circumstances, we are to have joy, we are to talk to God and we are to be thankful.
When we moved to Michigan, I was (ahem) not thrilled. A friend gave me a book on giving thanks and I began writing down throughout each day the things that I was thankful for – little and big things. As I stopped each moment to give thanks, my heart changed and I felt more satisfied and less entitled to “better.” Really, I have been given far more than I deserve. Haven’t you? I bet you could name ten things that were worthy of thankfulness that happened to you within the last hour.
That said, I’ve been sensing a lack of joy in my life recently. I am deeply in love with my husband (something I don’t take for granted), I treasure our three children, I have a great house in a fantastic neighborhood, I don’t question where my next meal will come from, I have friends in multiple states, I am pursuing my dream of getting my PhD, I’ve conquered many items on my “bucket list,” etc. So, why is it that I still struggle with feeling down at times? Why do I get homesick or look back and wish I could go back? I began to realize that I wasn’t experiencing deep inner joy but rather fleeting happiness.
Then I read Leviticus 9:24: “Fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw all this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground.” It stuck with me all day that JOY comes from being in the Lord’s presence. Joy is what comes from being in a relationship with God where you are praying continuously and reading His Word. Joy is when life throws punches but God reminds you that He is fighting on your behalf. Joy is that voice inside you that reminds you that God created the whole Universe for you, died for you and loves you despite your worst mistakes. Joy doesn’t come from attending church on Sunday. It doesn’t come from doing or saying the right things. Joy doesn’t come from trying to do everything on your own. Joy doesn’t come from family or friends. Joy doesn’t come from work accomplishments or skills you’ve been given. Joy comes from the presence of the Lord. Joy is not happiness but goes much deeper as we connect with God.
So, practically speaking, how do you find God’s presence? If you’re missing joy and you feel like you’re being tossed and pummeled like a rag doll in the ocean, then pick up God’s love letter to you – the Bible. Pick up and devour His true word. Soak up His story and purpose. Listen to music that glorifies Him. If you play an instrument, worship Him with your talents. Basically, spend quality time with the Lord just like you would if you were trying to get to know a friend better. If you’re starving for joy, spend time in His presence. Saying “thanks for this food” before dinner likely isn’t enough to truly bask in His presence and experience the joy that comes from seeing God move. Taking time to seek the Lord while He may be found will bring you the joy you crave – joy to live another day to the fullest, joy despite what your day looks like, joy when milk spills on the floor and your car gets a flat tire, joy when your spouse is traveling and you miss him (or her!) like crazy, joy when it’s hot and joy when it’s not, joy that God is great and part of your life.
If you’ve never experienced this joy, if you want to know more about having a relationship with the Lord, please send me a message. I’d be happy to talk with you or help you get connected. If you’re struggling with joy and you would like me to pray for you, let me know! We need to hold each other up!
Heavenly Father, thank You for the joy that we experience when we’re in Your presence. God, we are grateful for Your Word and we want to give thanks in all circumstances, we want to be joyful ALWAYS and we want to pray continuously. I ask that You would provide peace, love, comfort and joy to those dear ones who are struggling as they read this. May they come to know You more fully and enter a deeper relationship with You. Please provide joy as they continue on this journey You have called them to. Please keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil. May we do Your will as we live for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!