Looking for Joy
by Kay Warren
You made the team!
You’ve been awarded a scholarship!
We’d like to hire you!
Will you marry me?
Great job on closing that deal!
You’ve just won an all-expense-paid vacation!
There’s no sign of cancer!
These are some of life’s sweetest moments—when all is right with the world, all your fondest hopes and wildest dreams come true, and your heart nearly explodes with happiness. You could make your own personal “it doesn’t get any better than this” commercial.
But there are also other moments when nothing seems to go your way, everything that could go wrong does go wrong, and your fondest hopes and wildest dreams lie in shattered pieces at your feet. Those are the moment when your heart aches with the bitterness of unfulfilled longings, broken promises, or grief so powerful it threatens to take you to your knees.
Where does joy fit into these scenes from your life?
Sharing meaningful time with family and friends, having a great job, enjoying good health, being financially secure—aren’t these the building blocks for a happy life? Most of us would say these happy moments create joy, don’t they? Probably everyone would agree that feelings of happiness are sometimes tough to come by so you better grab them when you can. Isn’t that enough?
On the other hand, we’re certain the painful moments rob us of joy; any woman who says she is experiencing joy as she stands at a graveside is only giving the socially correct answer, right? None of us believe her, but we nod our heads and say the right words so that no one knows that on the inside we doubt God’s wisdom, his goodness, and his mercy.
Is joy really a possibility for messed-up and mixed-up pilgrims on this journey? Isn’t joy just a biblical word that has nothing to do with real life?
Great questions. I mean, really great questions. I ought to know; they’re my questions. I have a feeling you have asked similar questions—at least in your mind. You may never have felt comfortable voicing them out loud, but they have rolled around inside your head, especially in your most difficult moments.
Have you wondered why some people seem to experience deep and authentic joy in their daily lives—even in the toughest times—and others can’t seem to find it no matter how hard they search? Many of us eventually give up the pursuit, assuming we were unfortunate enough to have been standing on the wrong side of the door when God was handing out joy. It has often seemed to me that only a few lucky people received the gift of joy and that fewer still know joy’s “secret.”
I’m here to say, I’ve learned that’s just not true! Even though it may not feel that way to you at this moment, joy is available to you. You may be thinking, I don’t experience joy as much as other people do. It’s just not my thing. Or, Joy means living in denial of all the pain in the world. But as I’ve discovered in my own life, joy is not about your circumstances or about how you feel. It is definitely not about living in denial and ignoring sorrow or pain. Joy is something much deeper, richer, more stable, and definitely more accessible than you might have thought.
That’s the beauty of the joy God offers. You no longer need to live in fear or worry, because God’s joy will always be available to you. In this world you will have trouble, Jesus says. But you can still take heart. You can still receive joy. You are not dependent on anyone or anything other than God and yourself to know joy.
There’s one promise I want to give you as we start: I will be honest with you about my life and my search for joy—maybe more honest than you will find comfortable. I will not gloss over my doubts, failures, and sins, and I will admit to you—and myself—my sweaty, middle-of-the-night wrestling with God over issues of faith. I will let you into the internal workings of my faith in process because I find my own faith bolstered when I know someone else is struggling and sometimes succeeding in letting Christ be formed in her. Spiritual growth doesn’t happen automatically and is rarely pretty; we will all be “under construction” until the day we die and we finally take hold of the “life that is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:19). So let’s walk side by side for a while, and I’ll share with you what I’m learning about how to choose joy every day . . . in the best and worst of times . . . in every moment.
Taken from Choose Joy by Kay Warren. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.