Imagine a world without any joy.
I realize that’s both a difficult and dismal concept, and life right now might already feel that way. For the record, this world is not without joy. If you’re not experiencing it today, I’ll point something out later that may help.
For now, consider – what would you stop doing that you’re currently doing if joy ceased to exist? If there was no emotional payoff hardwired into the conclusion of whatever you did:
- Would you endure through tough things?
- Would you still do good things?
Arguably, a lack of joy would affect everything. You would update your social media status differently and take less “selfie” photos boasting about whatever you were in front of.
(Maybe that isn’t a bad idea in itself, but I digress.)
Behavioral science and some new research fueling how businesses market themselves assume that we don’t really have “free will” as much as we have “free won’t.” In other words, we can either give in to our drive to experience bliss or apply a more rational approach that overtakes our emotions.
The real challenge is that our culture has wired us to pursue our feelings at all costs. If you have an urge, you’re supposed to just “go for it” without any regard to its objective morality. Even Christianity has become more about a heavenly payoff, as if we marry God for His money and ditch Him at the altar. A friend asked me recently, “If God doesn’t eventually give me some sense of happiness, then what’s the point of life?”
You might be nodding your head at someone you know who would say that. Before you get too far down the road, consider if you’ve ever felt that way.
Joy isn’t a bad thing within the right context. Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus “for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
So what is the right context?
Let’s begin with a case study. Think of the most selfless thing you’ve ever done:
- Why did you do it? Was there an emotional feeling connected to it, even if it was merely the joy of knowing you did the right thing?
- Would you have done this thing without it? If so, does the joy of knowing you would have done it anyway carry any irony into your conclusion?
This is an uncomfortable topic for many reasons. On one hand, joy is a gift from God that we’re allowed to take appropriate pleasure in. On the other hand, we can inappropriately turn God into an emotional vending machine to serve our whims.
There’s an even deeper issue. In reading this you may already feel like you live in a world without joy. Still, that ache in itself is a form of evidence that joy does exist. It’s like the footprint that tells you a foot was once there. This world wasn’t always broken, but once was whole.
If you haven’t yet experienced some of this joy yet, I hope you’ll take a moment right now to reconsider where it might be right under your nose.
We’re in the Easter season and will be reminded of the sacrificial cross of Jesus Christ. Whatever you already believe about that moment in history, might you note the blood and pain that He experienced? Could you also take into account how even First Century historians noted the possibility of His Resurrection?
Sometimes we resist the idea of real joy because it requires a change on our part. People try to sidestep God for these reasons, from the fear of having to bend their ego before Him to an aversion to however He wants to work in their lives. We instead choose to be joy-junkies and avoid the One who wants to give it to us.
Being joyful is about more than being happy, and so much more than getting a payoff. We cannot control everything that happens to us our lives, nor can we guarantee everything will end with a tidy bow on top.
What God does guarantee us is that His love for us is bigger than any sin we’ve ever committed. Even in the midst of our deepest life struggles, He is lovingly comforting us. We are not alone on our life journey, for He shares our burdens and our triumphs.
There is no perfect blueprint for this, but I do know three potential stumbling blocks: worrying, trying to earn God’s love, and living outside His will. Do these things, and joy will be stifled. Embrace what He’s already offered you, and joy will come even if life doesn’t change.
Again, I don’t know what you’re willing to believe about that. Here’s one truth we can all land on – you must take responsibility for your joy. It can be done. With the help of God – and more importantly, the presence of God, you can become a joyful person.
Give it a try. You just might enjoy this.
Until then, see you next week… if not around town.
“Fully-Alive Living” offers weekly insights to serve you in taking another step forward in matters of the heart, soul, mind, body, and relationships. With over 20 years of experience and advanced education in working with people of all ages, Tony Myles and his family live in Medina where he serves as the Lead Pastor of Connection Church.
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org