This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure here.
Joy has never been a natural way of life for me. I'm not exactly certain why, but I think the pieces of the puzzle have been slowly making their way to build the big picture.
I've been looking for joy in all the wrong places.
It's not found in what I do or in what I have. It doesn't live in my circumstances. It doesn't even reside in my emotions or feelings because they fluctuate way more than I would like.
I named 2011 joy. But interestingly, joy is not what I learned.
It was grace.
And though the process of finding and practicing joy is coming slowly, it's coming through grace. By knowing God's radical grace, it frees me to experience Him. That is the doorway to finding joy. It's experience, not a way of thinking.
John Piper says,
God is glorified in his people by the way we experience him, not merely by the way we think about him. Indeed the devil thinks more true thoughts about God in one day than a saint does in a lifetime, and God is not honored by it.
Mere thoughts and mere deeds are manageable by the carnal religious mind. But the emotions--they are the weathercock of the heart. Nothing shows the direction of the deep winds of the soul like the demand for radical, sin-destroying, Christ-exalting joy in God. -When I Don't Desire God--How to Fight for Joy
Emotions are an important tool for the heart, but they need to be kept in their place so they can direct us appropriately. If we allow our emotions to run away or take control, they will be tossed with the wind and carry our soul with them. But when used as a gauge to show direction, they open a door to the whisperings of God.
Joy will not be rugged and durable and deep through suffering where there is not a resolve to fight for it. --John Piper
If we have no fight in us to pursue, seek, and desire joy even through our messy circumstances and suffering seasons, we won't find it. Joy helps us overcome bitterness, anger, and discouragement. When we aren't battling these off, we fall into a lifelong war we're unwilling to fight through.
When did we decide it was better or easier to remain discouraged or angry? Bitter or resentful? Piper says when we seek the glory of God, we seek our own joy. They are one in the same.
When we look at our circumstances through the lens of God's glory, we find joy on the other side. Joy in knowing who is upholding us--who is carrying us. Joy in simply knowing who Christ is. But this can only come through faith in God's promises. If we don't trust God or don't believe Him, we will have no hope, no peace, and therefore no joy.
The fight for joy is not something we achieve, but rather a gift that God works in us to grasp. Although the fight is our fight, only by the grace of God can we achieve victory. But we're responsible for taking the steps necessary to walk into the battle.
Our joy in him will be the greater because we see him as the one who gives both the joy and the strength to fight for it. -John Piper