How To Find Abiding Joy
It was a typical, boring weekday spent scrolling through YouTube when I found it. I wasn’t looking for it, but there it was. A trailer for a movie I’d heard was in production but delayed due to the pandemic, starring a longtime favorite actor of mine, was finally here. As I clicked the thumbnail, an odd squeal of excitement escaped me. My heart leaped for joy at a video only three minutes in length.
But that’s about as long as that feeling lasted. It wouldn’t matter how many times I watched that video. It wouldn’t feel the same. It wouldn’t matter how many times I would watch that movie; I still wouldn’t be able to catch that butterfly feeling in my chest.
Most of us have experienced the thrill of something that makes us happy for just a moment. But we all know it doesn’t last. So, we continue to chase it through accomplishments, relationships, or hobbies. We tell ourselves that when we find the right person and get married, our spouse will bring us joy. And they might. Until miscommunication or hurt takes root, and the honeymoon phase fades.
Maybe it’s through years of rigorous study and acquiring all the knowledge you need to jump into your dream career that you’ll find joy. But then we work ourselves and become burnt out. We believe through these things, we’ll find our way to permanent happiness. We’re like kids at the beach, building a grand sandcastle, only to be devastated when the ocean waves crash through it.
For Christians, having abiding joy feels like it should be easy to come by. The moment you gave your life to Christ, everything should work out, shouldn’t it? You’ll wake up every morning, pray and read your Bible. And you’ll definitely go to church every Sunday. You automatically do everything right and check all the boxes. Now, you’ll never have to chase the feeling. You’ll have joy all the time, right?
One night, during a Passover celebration, Jesus said something that could have been confusing to the disciples.
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” — John 16:16 ESV
Now, Jesus saying things at that moment that seemed confusing was nothing new. The disciples were probably used to it by now. So, He explains:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” — John 16:20–22 ESV
Here, Jesus was talking about His coming crucifixion. He tells the disciples that there will be sorrow and warns them that things will be messy and sad. Sometimes in our faith, we can look to Jesus and still go through storms. We see loved ones die, we can endure financial hardships, and struggle in our relationships. We can do everything in our power to do everything right and still endure pain and sorrow. Jesus’ death would be no different for them.
But what does He mean when he says, “your sorrow will turn to joy?”
The joy Jesus talks about isn’t necessarily the same as the world defines it. I think when we think of joy, we equate it to happiness. Here, Jesus speaks of eternal joy.
Jesus’ death bought the joy of eternal life and full access to the throne of God. When we trust in Jesus, give our all to Him, and invest in a true relationship with Him, we can be sure that joy will come. It doesn’t stop at the cross or death; it doesn’t stop when our money dries up, or our relationships fail. It’s a fullness of joy that no one can take away. We won’t have to chase it; we won’t have to work to replicate it.
While we may experience deep sorrow here on earth, we can hold fast to the promise, the joy, that one day…
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” — Rev. 21:4