“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2
“The main mark of the Christian is joy,” said a man named John Stott (who wrote a bunch of pretty great books about the Christian life). If someone were to watch you throughout your normal day, would they say that joy is the best way to define your character? Yikes! I’m not sure I would pass that test very well! Sadly, on some days they might say that complaining or grumpiness was what defined my character.
But what exactly is joy? Is it just someone who is happy on the outside all the time? Maybe you can take a minute right now and try to picture what ‘joy’ looks like to you (long awkward silence…). Okay, got it? I’m willing to bet that you were probably not thinking about this exact moment when you ‘pictured joy’ in your mind. You were probably thinking about some time at the beach, or maybe a great memory from your past, or maybe even an idea of what you might be like some day.
I think what all of us really are looking for is true joy. Deep joy that looks very similar to contentment. The problem is that we usually settle for some pretty cheap imitations. We think joy will come if we distract ourselves from all the things that make us uncomfortable or sad. Or we just keep on entertaining ourselves on Facebook or Instagram so we won’t have to think about anything that is hard.
But here’s the thing: true joy is not ultimately subject to circumstances because it is based on secure hope. What in the world does that mean? Listen again to the Apostle Paul, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” You see, our rejoicing is based in the hope we have due to the access we have to God by faith. Our hope is not based in what we have done, but it is based in the grace that God has shown to us.
And then Paul goes on to say, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Did you hear that? True joy remains even in our sufferings! True joy is not produced by the perfect, easy life, so it can’t be taken away even when life is difficult. True joy is wrapped up in what Christ has done for you out of his sheer love, mercy and grace.
Ask yourself today where you are looking for joy. Is it fleeting? Will it last even in the midst of suffering and pain? Now, look to the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb. Listen to the words of Jesus, “It is finished!” And now, find your joy rooted there.