“Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” – Psalm 51:12
Watching the news at the close of most days normally opens your mind to the opposite of glad tidings. Most news is not happy news. Typically it is not anywhere near a lullaby by which you can relax and sleep. That is, until you caustically develop an indifference to it all.
When we think about life in this world “joy” is certainly not the first word which comes to mind. For much of life is difficult. It is beset with off and on sorrows, disappointment, anger, and lots of failures of one sort or another. If joy sneaks its way into this environment it is normally not permanent.
Joy is an intriguing feeling. It is truly something your soul craves once it has experienced it. When joy is present, sadness never takes over. The presence of joy causes the soul to fly on wings of contentment.
There actually have been those moments in my life when joy banished all else. Worry was absent in joy’s presence. You never want the feeling of joy to pass. But permanent joy is difficult to retain this side of the river we all will cross.
Yet it is fully possible to know joy today or Paul would not have genuinely commanded you, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians)
There is a simple ditty for this present life which says “joy” stands for Jesus (J), others (O), and finally you (Y). You find the truth of this in Philippians 2: “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind (as Christ), having the same love, being of full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself.”
This is the very manner in which joy becomes all-encompassing in your soul. Seems simple enough, but it is the most difficult thing to pull off in a battlefield of sin.
In Vietnam my platoon was conducting a night ambush and we all were having trouble staying awake. This worry was exacerbated when we heard an enemy radio crackling in Vietnamese immediately behind our position at about 11 pm. We were faced in the wrong direction and the dry foliage immediately behind and around us could easily have given us away with any slight move. We feared being heard by them, especially when our position was so precariously lethal.
My praying was literally unceasing with a feeling that my trembling and profuse sweat like drops of blood weighed heavily on me. I was reminded of the Psalmist’s words that we were to wait perseveringly on the Lord more than watchman wait for the morning. (Psalm 130)
The waiting was excruciating! But when the sun finally rose, literally preserving our safety, the joy was incredible. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”(Psalm 30:5)
As the last book of the Old Testament declares, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping for joy as calves released from the stall.” (Malachi 4:2). Believe me, we really wanted to leap and skip!
Joy is a life necessity if you claim to know Jesus. Happiness is what people crave, but happiness is not joy. Come to know the difference!
“Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts, thou fount of life, thou light of men, from the best bliss that earth imparts, we turn unfilled to thee again.”
(First verse of Bernard of Clairvaux’s hymn, “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts,” c. 1150)