I don't know what the word "joy" evokes for you, but I think all of us come at that word from a different background. I grew up believing (and I think I still do) that joy is distinct from happiness, though maybe that line is closer today than it used to be. The distinction, I was taught, is that joy flows out of choices made because of our relationship to God, while happiness emerges from our experiences in the moment. Thus, the writer of Hebrews could say that, "...for joy set before, [Jesus] endured the cross..." Was Jesus "happy" to go through the trial at Calvary? I don't know, but I can confidently say He faced the cross with joy.
Maybe the Apostle James had Calvary in mind when he penned the above words in the first chapter of his epistle, stating that you and I are to choose joy when we face trials, too.
Back in 2015 when I lost my job and all of us were experiencing massive upheaval, happiness wasn't abundant during those first few months. In fact, I remember a moment in June, right before the kids were out of school and a week or two before we set out on a cross-country road trip to start summer, that my wife and I experienced one of those laugh-yourselves-silly moments, and it had been one of the first of such events, since January.
But Joy wasn't as elusive. In fact, I recall many moments of joy and deep satisfaction in spite of homelessness, joblessness, and significant uncertainty. Our relationship to Christ made it possible to choose joy, because we knew, at the core of our existence, that God was using our trials to produce grit, character, and whatever was missing for whatever was in our future. Our faith in Him gave our suffering purpose; even if we didn't know or understand what the purpose was.
This blog is read by hundreds, sometimes, thousands of different people each week, and I know, in that large of a group, many of you are experiencing difficult decisions, painful trials and heart-breaking challenges. I want to encourage you with the words of James, and challenge you to embrace, in faith, God's Word, that He is using this in your life for your greatest good and His ultimate glory.
The promised result of your faith isn't the end of suffering, rather, it's even better: joy. How can you choose joy today in your trial? What's one decision you can make to find joy in today's heart ache?