Most husbands, if they have any sense at all brag on their wives occasionally. I don't do this near as much as Arwen deserves so today I am posting a paper she wrote recently that surprised me. A friend of ours asked her to give advice to some struggling folks about finding joy. Rather than a three sentence e-mail reply about having hobbies or getting enough exercise this is what Arwen wrote.
Keeping Joy Alive
Before thinking about how to keep joy alive, I decided that I had better look up the definition of the word joy. Paul tells us in 1 Thess 5:16 to be joyful always, and follows with the equally challenging command – pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.
Joy – 1. a very glad feeling; happiness, great pleasure, delight 2. anything causing such feeling 3. the expression or showing of such feeling.
Enjoy – 1. to have or experience with joy; get pleasure from; relish
Enjoy oneself – to have a good time; have pleasure
Rejoice – to be glad, happy or delighted; be full of joy
What gives joy?
Here are some things that bring joy according to Scripture:
1. The Lord and His presence. Ps4:7 “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.” See also Ps 28:7, Ps 21:6
2. Ps 19:8 “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.”
3. Our children. Prov 23:24,25 and Prov 27:11
4. Seeing justice done. Prov 21:15
5. People being healed and evil spirits being driven out. Acts 4:8
6. Coming to faith. Acts 16:34 (the jailer)
7. Salvation. 1 Peter 1:8,9 “…you are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” See also Luke 10:20
8. Finding others walking in the truth. 2 John 4
9. Being with other believers. 1 John 12
10. Other believers. I Thess 2:19,20; I Thess 3:9
11. When we know that people know about Jesus. I John 1:4
12. Being in the right place. The Israelites “joy was complete” when they returned from exile. Neh 8:17
13. A cheerful look from others. Prov 15:30
14. When others are concerned about us. 2 Cor 7:7
15. The love of friends. 2 Tim 1:4; Philemon 7
16. Perfume and incense Prov 27:9
There are many other references to joy in the Scriptures, not to mention all the references about rejoicing.
My thoughts about things that bring joy
Prov 21:15 says that “when justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous…” When I read that I recognized that the opposite of that is also true, that when injustice is done it brings heartache. In this country we see a lot of injustice. People are treated unfairly and wrongly accused every day. For me, that is one thing that makes living here so difficult. I see people being treated unjustly and there is nothing that I can do about it.
We can see what other things steal our joy by looking at the opposites of other verses. For example not being in the Lord’s presence, not being with other believers, and not receiving cheerful looks can bring us down. There are so many things that can steal our joy. When we live in places that are unjust, or where we don’t receive cheerful looks or when there are no other believers then I think we have to focus on other things that can bring joy.
The presence of the Lord gives us joy. That is something that other people can’t take away from us. We cannot flee from the presence of the Lord. (See Psalm 139) Psalm 118: 24 says “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Every day we can start the day by rejoicing that the Lord has made another day and we have been given another day of life. When I feel down I like to put on some praise music and turn the volume up. Also finding some quiet time to read my Bible or a devotional when the kids are busy doing other things can lift my spirits.
We can rejoice when we hear about others coming to faith. I used to get very discouraged when other team members were able to spend more time out building relationships while I was at home taking care of kids and schooling them. For years, when people asked me how they could pray for me I asked that I would be able to prioritize the way God wanted me too. I always felt that I should be doing more. Over the years I have learned that being at home with my children was an important role for me at this time in my life. Now that our youngest is almost 5 and we no longer have babies or toddlers I am looking forward to going out more with my husband to villages and to see the work and have opportunities to share with ladies. The concept of team is so important in keeping our joy. I can rejoice because others on our team have been able to start churches. I can also rejoice when our local co-workers and friends share about people giving their hearts to Jesus. It is easy to get discouraged when we don’t see the fruit of our labor, or when we hear about how many are coming to faith in other parts of the world. But this is just one way that Satan works against us. When we hear of things happening in other countries or in other cities in our countries, or even amongst other teams in our city, our response should be to be joyful. It is all the Lord’s work. We may not see the results of our work here on earth, but our reward is in heaven. When we get those “really cool stories” in the e-mail we should rejoice with our friends that they are seeing some fruit.
Children are a joy and a gift from the Lord. Seeing them grow and learn brings us joy. We need to enjoy the time that we get to spend with them. Wise children also bring joy. It is important for us to teach our children how to be wise. Teaching our children is important and we should not feel like we are failing if we spend a lot of time investing in our children.
Another thought about children - it is hard for us when we see that our children are not happy. Where we live there are very few English speaking kids. We have seen that many kids who come here when they are young are able to make local friends. But these friendships are usually harder to maintain during the teenage years. For one thing, the level of language needed to communicate is higher, but more than that, our kids just don’t have the same interests. Our kids have more knowledge because of their opportunity to travel and because of the things that they learn in school, and the local kids don’t have the same base of knowledge. We have seen many families (especially from other organizations) leave the field when their kids hit the teenage years because they see the need for their teens to be with other teens. We have learned (or maybe we are still trying to learn) not to be judgmental when we see the decisions that others make concerning their teens. Each family is different and there is not a magical formula that will work for all families. What we did is to send our teenagers to boarding school. Although it is difficult for us not seeing our children every day, we rejoice that they are getting the education and social skills that are necessary for them. So, I feel joyful when I know that my kids are joyful.
And, also on the subject of family, a good relationship with our spouse can, and should, bring us joy. We need to make sure that we keep this relationship healthy and take time for each other. We can encourage each other during the days when we don’t feel so joyful. I rejoice that I have a good relationship with my husband. We have fun together and enjoy being together.
Being with other believers gives us joy. We make sure to schedule time just to have fun with other international (i.e. not local) believers. We get together every two weeks on a Friday night to have dinner and play games with another American family that are our good friends. Additionally, we meet for worship with other foreigners and for prayer with our team. We like to have people over for dinner and make a point to have the families of the other English-speaking kids over often. I don’t think this takes away from our relationships with the nationals; it gives us the balance that we need and helps us to maintain our joy so that we have more energy for our national friends. Just like with our teenagers, our national friends don’t usually enjoy the same things that we do, for example, they don’t play games. When we are with other foreigners that understand us better we can receive those joyful looks and feel the love and encouragement that bring us joy.
Being with national believers also gives us joy. We love those opportunities when we can visit a local church, do Bible studies, have local believers over for dinner or visit in their homes. I can’t say it better than Paul does to the Thessalonians. “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy…How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?”
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Gal 5:22,23 Also, in I Thess 1:6, Paul says to the Thessalonians, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” We can receive joy from the Holy Spirit. Just as we can pray for more patience or love, we can also pray for more joy.
James tells us to “consider it pure joy …whenever you face trials”. (James 1:2) Not just joy, but pure joy! It certainly is not easy to feel joyful when we are faced with trials. But why should we consider it joy? In the following verses we get the answer – we will be mature and complete. In times when it is hard to feel joyful because there are too many trials, maybe we need to focus on the future and rejoice that we are being made into a better person through it all – mature and complete.