The pursuit of Joy. Day 6

The Psalms: the last installment

Distant songs of joy

  1. We can proclaim the satisfying pleasure we find in God through jubilant song and shouts of victory, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and horns, with dancing. Not only that, but the rivers will clap and the mountains will sing because God has done marvelous things like revealing and clothing us with his salvation. God’s right hand has done mighty things!  (Psalm 98, 107, 132, 118, 149)
  2. God’s law is our joy (119:111)

    “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”

  3. To be liberated from slavery is joy and the cause of it, which God has given us and why we sing songs of joy to him. (105, 126:2)

    When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

  4. In times of sorrow, songs of joy are distant, but we yearn to sing them once again. (Psalm 137)

    “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.”

I wish I sang songs of joy more often for the salvation God has given me, for the freedom he has liberated me to in Christ. I wish I was so moved that I might praise God with dancing and instrument, with laughter and joy. There are times when I forget that I have tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord and that he is ever with me!

But I can imagine the sorrow the nation of Israel felt in exile, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land,” they said as they hung up their harps.

Unit next time…

The pursuit of Joy. Day 5

The Psalms

“Satisfy us with your unfailing love that we may sing for joy”

1. Mountains and trees sing and shout for joy (if you can believe it). They declare the pleasure and delight of God by displaying his splendor, his greatness, and his power. (89:12, 96:12)

2. When God helps us triumph over our enemies, we shout and sing for joy in the work he’s done on our behalf. Not only in war, but in his unfailing compassion and grace after we act unrighteously or rebelliously. It is by his deeds and nature we are made glad. (66:1, 67:4, 71:24, 81:1, 92:4)

3. Comfort and consolation during grief and anxiety from God brings us joy because of the truth of his sovereignty in trials. (94:19)

4. We can call each other to sing for joy over the wonderful things God has done. (95:1)

5. And yet again it is God who is our source of joy and we ask him to satisfy us in our time of need and plenty. That satisfaction in his unfailing love (who he is and what he’s given us) is what gives us that fulfilling and satisfactory joy for all of our days. (86:4, 90:14, 92:4)

Biblical Joy: to be satisfied and find pleasure in who God is and what He has given us- D.A. Carson.  This is why the pursuit of Joy is really the pursuit of God and glorifying Him for all that He is and does with all that we are and  do.  

Until next time :)

In the pursuit of Joy. Day 4

What is stealing my joy?

I finally found a definition of joy I agreed with from D.A Carson who described joy as being satisfied and finding pleasure in God and what he’s given us. However, he followed up his definition with something that was really impactful for me: we are grateful for the things that give us joy, but when we don’t have joy its because there’s something that God has given us in our lives or something about who is that we are not grateful for.

So why is that so different? Well instead of forcing myself to consider all the things in life I’m grateful for and trying to choose to be happy and joyful by focusing on those things (like Philippians 4:8 though valuable), I instead ask myself the question: What is it that God has given me in my life that I am ungrateful for?

Oh. I see. Now it’s really about the fact that I’m not trusting His plan with that situation in my life. Or whatever it is. It sucks and the great thing about God is that you can tell him that! You can tell him how much pain you feel. And you can tell him how you don’t understand. And you can ask him for the strength to get through it. And it’s quite possible that only He can provide that joy in that time, and so we ask him for joy in the unpleasant circumstances.

Is it possible that God works all things for the good of those who love him? Is it possible God cares truly about me experiencing His utter and complete goodness? I think so. I know so. This I know because berries taste sweet and because a child’s laughter fills my heart and because music connects dots in my soul and these things have nothing to do with whether I have money or was born into a “good” family. There’s non-circumstantial goodness out there waiting to give God the glory. This I know also because God’s good book says not only that God works all things out for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) or that he desires to give his children good gifts (Matthew 7:11) but that He hears our prayers, forgives our overwhelming sins, fills us with good things from His house, answers us with awesome deeds, is our Savior and the hope of all of the ends of the earth, he formed the entire world including the mountains and the roaring seas, he waters the land and cares for it, he gives us delicious food and all of this causes us to be satisfied and find pleasure in our great wonderful God and even creation itself shouts for joy and sings (Psalm 65).

Until next time.

In the Pursuit of Joy. Day 3

The Psalms

“You have filled my heart with Joy”

1. The joy that God fills our heart with is greater than the joy that success brings to godless people living for the riches of this world. (Psalm 4:7)

2. When we follow God’s commands, it gives our hearts greater joy than when we sin, though it seems the opposite in the moment. If we hate wickedness and love righteousness, God will give us joy. (Psalm 19:8, 45:7)

3. There are times when we do not have joy and our soul is downcast. It takes questioning and searching and pleading to put our hope in God in those times, but he turns our wailing into dancing. (Psalm 42:4, 30:11)

4. When attacked by our enemies if we take refuge is God we will have joy, and of course in victory we will also have joy that leads to singing and praise to God who gives us these victories. He is our strength and shield. We trust him and he helps up and this makes our heart leap for joy. (Psalm 5:11, 21:1, 27:6, 28:7)

5. When those we love are vindicated, when they succeed against their enemies, we are filled with joy and give God the glory. (Psalm 35:27)

6. God fills our hearts with joy in his presence. He is our joy. (Psalm 4:7, 16:11, 21:6, 30:11, 43:4)

In the pursuit of Joy. Day 2

Continuing my study of joy (including the book of Job):

1. We can encourage others to stop grieving and have joy when circumstances have changed. If I was grieving because I wanted to be married and then got married, it wouldn’t be necessary to still grieve. Or grieving that you don’t have access to God’s word in your language would be silly to do if someone gave you God’s word in your language. Rather, we rejoice over things once grieved for. (Nehemiah 8:10,12,17)

2. We can have joy when we have victory over our enemies, though it was a weighty trial before; joy that is so full, we celebrate year after year to remember and it even compels us to give gifts to our friends and the poor (sounds like Christmas, but actually refers to Purim). (Ester 8:15-17, 9:17-19, 9:22)

3. Pain longs to be validated and find company that affirms, not accuses. Validation and affirmation give us a glimmer of joy in unrelenting pain to know someone stays with us in our misery and even our doubt towards God himself. (Job 3:7, 6:10, 9:25, 10:20)

4. Seeing God’s face and his work causes us (and the angels) to shout for joy! (Job 33:26, 38:7)

5. God gives us great joy. Yet again, it is He who provides. (Nehemiah 12:43, Job 8:21)

In the pursuit of Joy. Day 1

This starts a collection on my study of the word JOY in the Bible, starting from the beginning. A friend of mine gave me an NIV concordance which I hope to wear out dry. I hope to uncover what it means to have joy, what it looks like, when it happens, and how it arrives. So here we go:

“God filled them with joy.”

1. Being in the presence of God, dwelling with him, and seeing his glory and appearance gives us joy, and complete joy worthy of celebration. (Leviticus 9:4) (1 Chron 16:27, 29:22) (Ezra 6:22)

2. When God establishes the work of our hands and blesses us (such as with bountiful food, success, good Godly leaders) we can celebrate with joy, even for days! It is worth celebrating! (Deuteronomy 16:14-15) (1 Chron 13:40)

3. We are a joy to one another when we give willingly and do things or treat each other honorably and in good faith. (Judges 9:19) (1 Chron 29:17)

4. We have joy when we obey his commands and remember continually all the things he has done, such as the things in point #2. (Ezra 3:13, 6:16)

5. God fills us with joy. (Ezra 6:22)

“and the pursuit of happiness.”

Apparently pursuing happiness is a common phenomenon among people. You hear phrases often that say “do what makes you happy,” and the like. We pursue certain jobs, eat certain food, drink certain drinks, date certain people, and live certain lives that make us happy and the world tells us that is our purpose… to be happy.

This isn’t another one of those posts about the secret to a joyful life or defining happiness and joy differently and the dependence on emotion that the definition takes… no really, its just an honest consideration. In the Christian world, there’s a huge stigma against living for happiness, people often comment on how “the heart is deceitful above all else,” and we should seek joy and not happiness. God guarantees joy if we obey his commands (John 15:10-12), but not happy emotionalism. I went to a Christian concert the other day where someone defined joy and the abundant life as sadness too. Whether that’s accurate or not, the cry I hear of Christian souls is “This world is actually quite depressing and because I’m impacted by that I feel guilty that I’m not beaming with joy all the time.” But if you define joy, it really is just pleasure and happiness. Sounds like an emotional feeling to me. I don’t think we need to feel necessarily guilty that we experience joylessness, but I’ve realized I don’t particularly feel differently from that very often.

The truth of the matter is, whatever it means, I don’t “feel happy” or really that joyful. When I pet kittens I do, but I haven’t done that in a while. Maybe you can relate, but the world gets me down. There’s a lot of crap that happens here, relationships are always a struggle, there’s always a continual battle for loving my family and fighting bitterness, I’m fighting for courage to share the gospel with people, and fighting not to give into sin’s temptation. This is a weary land. The call I hear from Jesus is, “Come all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

So how come I’m not living for happiness? As I think about that, I reflect on my experience being alive so far and consider all the facets of my decision making. I can honestly say that “my happiness” isn’t something I’ve really ever considered so I really don’t understand the mindset of people who live to do whatever makes them happy. Is it the way I grew up? I wonder. Living on farm you learned to do things whether you liked them or not, for survival, but life never felt good. I kind of accepted that and I think it’s colored my view on life. Life is hard, so don’t expect joy. And the call I hear from the bible is to “seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14) not happiness.

So I’m not pursuing happiness like the world suggests. Great! I’ve saved myself a lot of trouble, but yet, why this discontentment? Why this joylessness? Why do I so often feel like life on earth here is a means to an end?

I don’t have a lot of answers to those questions. Actually, I don’t really have any. I suppose the soul is a vast and deep water which only God can navigate, but I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts about having joy in a, what seems like most of the time, a joyless place. I have hope in the next life, I’m so excited for eternity with God, but sometimes it’s really just hard to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. Maybe you will read this and have some wisdom to share, or maybe God’s got some good things to teach me in the next year. Stay tuned for more conclusions.

Psalm 27:13-14 “I am confident of this, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living. Wait on the Lord, be strong, and wait on the Lord.” Is this a promise I can take to mean this life, or does it really just refer to heaven… I just don’t know, but people keep sharing it with me so it must mean something. It must mean something.

For the joy set before him.

I’ve been able to go on prayer walks in the mornings, which started because I park my car a little bit “off” campus in the commuter lot (It’s free during the day! Yay!) Now that’s its warmer- why not? It’s been super refreshing to my soul. 

This morning I was encouraged just think about how Jesus got through the cross. If anyone deserves a standing ovation, a medal of honor, the crown- its Him.

Sometimes in life, I think God grants us the opportunity to stand before our future challenges, what’s to come, and we have to brave it somehow. 

I think about Jeff passing and how we all knew it was coming. We had to prepare our hearts, but we really couldn’t… and God was still there to carry what we couldn’t in the first place. 

For the joy set before him- he endured the cross. Can we just stop and think about that? Jesus knew the full extent of the pain to come… think about Gethsemane. The weight of the guilt and shame of the entire world…upon him. Yet, because of the joy set before him… he endured the cross. 

What will I endure for the joy set before me? What about you?
Maybe the better question is… do we know about the joy

So often in my life, my biggest excuse for not doing something is the fear of future pain. That’s why we all build up walls, right? We don’t want to get hurt, again, or at all. I think a lot about my family. This year God called me to bring down some of those walls and open up to them again which I probably hadn’t done since I was a child, if ever (yet, I am not much greater than a child now). Since then I’ve actually answered the question “How are you doing?” with more than a begrudging “Fine.” but with honesty regardless of the content. Since then, since letting my mom, my dad, my brothers back into my life God has shown His glory in my mom confessing Christ as her savior, going to church and now bringing my brother Adam along too. Adam and I were baptized together as children- he hadn’t been to church probably once in the last 8 or 9 years. Now he’s been twice and he’s singing and praising. Man, if I would have known about this joy coming… 

I could have know though. “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) “God works for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) Maybe it is possible to have hope in every circumstance. 

Then I think to myself… what if Christ had decided to not endure the cross? (I just rewinded the entirety of life for a second.) 

I’m sure a lot of people would say the same; that we probably wouldn’t be here today. I probably wouldn’t have made it through my life without the Holy Spirit holding me strong and leading my life. Nope, not a chance. If my reward, my joy, is having my name written in the book of life (Luke 10:20) and there’s no cross- no atonement, no resurrection, no Holy Spirit, no redemption, no intercession, no relationship… there would be no hope. Wow. 

Praise God Jesus did. 

(Talking about the men of faith in the OT) Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

(Hebrews 11:36-12:3)

One time I heard someone talk about us being in relationship again with our Maker was part of that joy set before Him. Kind of like that reference to a mother forgetting the pain of labor when the joy of being with her baby takes over. 

Carry on in faith!