Joy is to be a permanent fixture in our biblical, Christian walk. Do we need to explain what joy is? Not really. It is something most human beings have experienced to some extent and it is certainly something that human beings crave or long for. The problem with us is that we are looking for this joy, this happiness, in all the wrong places. We refuse to find the one in whom we can find true happiness, true joy. If the second part of the Shorter Catechism’s 1st Answer, that our chief end, not only to glorify God, but also that we are to enjoy Him forever, then the human condition apart from Him is the opposite of joy.
Life, without the understanding given us by the Gospel, has a way of stealing our joy. Yet Jesus never changes, nor does his love for us. Therefore, we ought to rejoice in God and life, even if things are difficult. He has said that he will never leave us or forsake us. Considering this we can always be joyful. Take the command to rejoice seriously! How do we find joy? I suggest we sit down and think!
“The true Christian is the only happy man because he can sit down quietly and think about his soul.”
J. C. Ryle said “The true Christian is the only happy man because he can sit down quietly and think about his soul. He can look behind him and before him; he can look within him and around him and feel, ‘All is well.’ He can think calmly about his past life, and however many and great his sins, take comfort in the thought that they are all forgiven. … He can think calmly about things to come, and yet not be afraid. Sickness is painful; death is solemn; the Judgment Day is an awful thing; but having Christ for him, he has nothing to fear. He can think calmly about the holy God, whose eyes are on all his ways, and feel ‘He is my Father – I am weak; I am unprofitable; yet in Christ he regards me as his dear child, and is well pleased.’ Oh, what a blessed privilege it is to be able to think and not be afraid! I can well understand the mournful complaint of the prisoner in solitary confinement. He had warmth, and food, and clothing, and work, but he was not happy. And why? [Because] He said, ‘He was obliged to think.’” [Practical Religion, 160]
So, in the midst of circumstances that are truly depressing, we can still have joy, as the prophet Habbakuk wrote in Habbakuk 3:17-19 –
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.