A lot about life in North Africa, if you’re not careful, can rob your joy. The heat. Heat rash. Tiredness. Travels. Knocks at the gate at 5:00am. Feeling used for services (ice, car rides, cell phone charging). Reverse proselytizing. Language barrier. Bluntness. Daily chores. Sickness. Lack of communication from the outside world. Feeling fellowship starved. Faith parched.
Have you been there? Maybe you don’t live in Africa, but some joy robbers are universal. Maybe you could add more to that list. Maybe your list is more serious. Stress of parenting. Strain on marriage. Conflict with co-workers. Serious health concerns. Failure to overcome a sinful habit. What is your joy robber? You know what it is? We often look for joy in all the wrong places.
C.S. Lewis said,
“All that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” (Mere Christianity)
Just look around. We are joy junkies. Lewis continues,
“we know happiness is out there, but like a drunk man, we stumble in the street, knowing we have a home, but we can’t seem to find it.” (Surprised by Joy)
If there is one truth you need to grasp it is this, joy—true joy—is not conditional on circumstance, but centered and anchored in Christ. Jesus didn’t just come into the world to bring the good news. He is the good news. He’s good news for your joy. Joy is not a circumstance it is a Person. And your joy is at home in Jesus.
In a timely moment, just after teaching on the promise of sending the Holy Spirit, Jesus says to his disciples “you will see me no longer” and “I am going to the Father.” (16:16-18) It might seem like Jesus threw them a curve ball, if you did not know the context. Jesus was leaving and didn’t say when he was coming back. He wasn’t going to the Seven-Eleven to pick up a Slurpee and coming back in a jiffy. He was going and no man knew the hour he’d return. Nonetheless, it was a puzzling and polarizing moment. These guys left their jobs to follow Jesus. Talk about a joy robbing moment. Knowing they had questions (seeing it on their faces), Jesus cuts straight to the heart (vs.19-20).
Promise: Jesus turns sorrow to joy (v.20-21)
Jesus was moments away from the cross (v.20). While the cross could be viewed as the world’s greatest joy crushing moment it was indeed the world’s greatest joy crowning moment. The disciples would weep but the world would throw a party. Every play on the field makes someone happy, whether the home team or the enemy. Yet the cross is where Jesus fought for your joy. The cross is where the Man of Sorrows purchased your joy. You don’t find true joy at the cross, it finds you. So rich and powerful is the joy of Christ that it cuts through any sorrow and pain.
Survey 100 people on what thing in life causes the most pain and the number one answer on the board (particularly for the ladies) will be childbirth. Men would might add kidney stones for consolation. I wouldn’t know how either feels. However, survey the Scriptures and I see that the world’s greatest pain or sorrow is walking through pain and sorrow without Christ. That hurts. That kills. Yet on the flip side walking through sorrow, pain, heartache, disappointment, failed expectations with Christ—though it doesn’t erase the feeling of sorrow—can cause one to forget it.
Jesus agrees with the ladies. He illustrates (v.21). A woman in labor has excruciating pain for “a little while”, but the moment she hears her baby cry and that warm life is brought to her side, she quickly forgets her labor pain. That is one of the world’s greatest paradoxes. Likewise, it is the a spiritual paradox that sorrow can turn to joy no matter the circumstance.
What pain or sorrow are you walking through right now? The promise: it will only be for “a little while.” It will pass. It will change. There will be a day when we have no more questions about how much longer you will have to endure. Sorrow will turn to joy.
Promise: No one can rob joy from you (v.22)
There are a myriad of things that can rob your joy. Yet the truth is that joy—centered and anchored in Christ—no man, no power, no circumstance can rob from you.
No man can’t rob what he can’t touch. The joy of Jesus untouchable. No man can take what is given to you by God. His joy is forever. No string attached. No circumstance thwarting. Your joy is safest and most secure in Christ. Promise.
Even in the darkest night, when the thief comes to steal your last ounce of joy, the anchor seems to be losing it’s grip, and your center is tempted to drift. Jesus say, “My child, I have already fought for your joy. I have won. The thief albeit strong is no match for me. Come rest in me. Come draw near. You are safe with me. I haven’t left you alone. I am always with you. My Spirit is with you.”
Principle to Apply: Ask Jesus to make your joy full (vs.23-24)
When Jesus died fellowship with him was removed, but “a little while” later he resurrected and fellowship with him was restored. Jesus’ greatest desire for you is that you would enjoy him forever. That you would draw near to Christ now. That you would call upon his name so that your “joy may be full.” Get this, you have full license to come before Jesus anytime with your request and the result will be joy overflowing the riverbanks. Prayer is our pathway to joy in Jesus. Prayerlessness leads to joylessness.
When you come to Jesus he promises full joy. Even in Chad, he can fill your joy. There is a lot about Chad that can renew or refresh your joy: You see front line answers to prayer. You experience astounding provisions. You experience unknown protection. You have the privilege of telling lost people (swimming in pain and sorrow) about the good news. And all the while, Jesus is with you, always.
The great Christian paradox is that joy is possible in the midst of un-joyful circumstance because joy is not conditional on circumstance, but centered and anchored in Christ. Your joy is most at home in Jesus. Come home, today. To the place of inescapable and inexpressible joy.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24–25)
What about Christ brings you joy? How does Jesus make your joy full? What do you need to ask in Jesus name today?