What Should Make Us Joyful
READ: Psalm 100
“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart …” Proverbs 15:30 (NIV)
Although numerous Christian hymns involve joy, I never realized how “joyless” they were rendered until one Sunday while serving as worship leader, I watched the congregation singing the opening hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We adore Thee”. It sounded more like a funeral dirge than an expression of praise and joy! I impiously thought if this is a joyful, Lord let me be miserable.
The words of the Apostle Paul came to mind: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NIV). However, to re-joice one has to previously had joy. Further, the question emerges: What is joy and where does it originate?
Being joyful is different from just being happy. Happiness is a temporary feeling but joy is a condition that is experienced, but is more than a feeling; it is, primarily, a state of mind. Abraham Lincoln quite cogently delineated it when he said: “… most people are as joyful as they make up their mind to be.”
There seems to be two main sources of joy. Firstly, joy flows from a sense of being loved. No one has joy who does not feel that there is someone who values, accepts, and cares for him (or her). To feel one counts for nothing and that he/she does not matter to anyone is a great joy-killer. The experience of feeling loved is the primary source of joy and wouldn’t it seem that each and every believer would have this feeling?
Secondly, joy seems to naturally flow from accepting one’s situation as good. People who are always fretting about the way things are, wishing they were different, or longing for changes which are not likely to happen, disqualify themselves from joy in a very through way. The Apostle Paul offers good advice and suggests that we focus on the good things in life (Philippians 4:8). Indeed, we can choose what we think about but at times this may not be easy. There are many elements in our society that tend to make us dissatisfied. For example, every commercial is designed to impress upon us that joy and happiness are available if you only purchase the product. We even have a dishwashing detergent called Joy! Consequently, we often concentrate on things that are irritating in life rather than the positive. It sometimes seems that each day has its potential irritants – being cut off by a careless diver and/or a phone call as we are rushing out the door etc., etc., BUT do we have to focus on these? Aren’t there many offsetting positive events? One way I have found to potentially change my day and others is just enter with a smile and maybe a cheerful greeting. When we cultivate joy in others, it will be frequently reflected back on us. The old adage “Courtesy is contagious, let’s start an epidemic” is equally true in regard to joy!
One factor each Christian should keep in mind is that a joyless believer will render the faith repulsive rather than attractive, whereas a joyful Christian is a most arresting advertisement of the transforming power of the Gospel. Let’s follow Paul’s advice in thinking and spreading Joy!