Is it possible to be joyful always?!

Today is not a good day. Nothing catastrophic happened, things just aren’t going the way I’d like. I’m disappointed. Feeling insecure about the future.

Yesterday I was euphoric. Filled with joy. Grateful for everything. How did things change so dramatically in less than 24 hours?

I was reading John 16:22 this morning where Jesus says, “…no one will take your joy from you.” Permanent joy? Is that possible?

I have often wondered why, if Jesus said that no one will take our joy from us, there are times when joy seems to have packed up and left. As I was reading John 16 this time the context jumped out at me. “…in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” John 16:19b-22 (NLT)

The joy Jesus promised his followers had its source in the fact that the one they loved, hoped in, lived for and thought was dead was in fact not. Jesus’ resurrection shook the foundations of the universe and reoriented every hope and expectation his followers had, their future and all that was valuable to them. What they knew after Jesus’ resurrection was that he was God come to earth, simply – dare I use that word? – to rescue them. That he was more powerful than death. That he was real. That he was coming back.

In the months and years that followed Jesus’ resurrection these people had a lot to not be joyful about. They had property confiscated, family members killed, they were frequently imprisoned and many were killed simply for loving Jesus and telling others about him.

But no one could take their joy from them.

That’s because their joy was based on the reality that Jesus was not gone as they feared when the Romans put him to death. Instead Jesus was the most stable, the most substantial, the most tangible thing in their lives. Nothing they experienced, went through, suffered could change that.

So that got me thinking about why my joy so often evaporates. I suspect the answer is because I’m joyful when I am comfortable, having fun, in good health, anticipating an upcoming vacation, enjoying happy relationships, have rewarding work, have little uncertainty in my life. But those things are easy to lose. At best they come and go. Then so does my joy.

Remember that song we used to sing as kids? “The foolish man built his house upon the sand…the rains came down and the floods came up.” If I remember correctly, that house didn’t fare so well. Seems there was a loud “SPLAT!” in our song – in which us kids took great relish.

But the song had another verse. “The wise man built his house upon the rock.” Things went much better for that person when the storm hit, the job started tanking, the medical test came back positive, the relationship crashed and burned.

When I was a kid I thought that song was about good construction practices. But considering what Jesus says about joy I suspect the song had a little more to it.

Maybe I should still be singing it.

Jesus, his teaching, what he commands, his very reality is the rock on which I need to build the house of my life, dreams, goals, priorities, beliefs – and joy.

That way when the storm hits, as it inevitably will, there won’t be a loud “splat” echoing anywhere near me.

You can build a foundation on the rock that is Jesus by studying what he said and did in the Bible. Download a DIY Bible Study Guide and get some insurance against the next storm.

Photo credit: Inge Maria