What does joy mean to you? For me, joy is defined by hope. My hope for the future comes from my faith in Jesus. Knowing He loves me more than anyone ever could gives me the hope that my future is set in stone; no matter what anyone else says or does to me, His love for me is more important and more valuable.
The time when I find it most difficult to feel joy is when I feel lonely. That’s when I need to reach out and connect with friends who remind me that I matter, and that I’m cared for. Through my Christian friends, I know Jesus cares for me because He places people in my life whose care for me extends from a place beyond themselves. Do you have friends who love you because they are inspired by Jesus’ love to love others? There’s nothing like the love of Jesus; it comes through so many forms, including that of other believers who have faith in His promises.
Years ago, I was resentful towards life, and I found many reasons to complain because I felt unseen by so many people, despite how so many people did actually care for me. I can openly tell you now that that time period was influenced by my atheism. As an unbeliever, I couldn’t find a reason to be thankful or joyful. I was hurt, stubborn, closed-minded, and lonely. The hurt was caused by circumstances in life beyond my control. The stubbornness, the closed-mindedness—those were my choices. Obstinately choosing not to believe in God forced me to put more weight on lust; I wanted romance to fill the part of me that was meant to be sated by God in much, much deeper ways. Naturally, I never found what I was looking for with people because… well, people are not God. Until you believe in the loving God of the Bible, accepting love from others carries a different meaning. I want to elaborate on that difference here because I think the distinction is worth taking a closer look at. Perhaps this perspective will help others to see the importance of faith—not only in one’s own life, but in the relationships of one’s life as affected by faith in Christ.
Being loved by a person feels good. Sex is the one act that brings two people closer together emotionally and physically, and even spiritually; however, love from God is eternal, and is even more compelling and fulfilling than sex. There’s something about the love of God that is so much more powerful and motivating; separate from human love.
Imagine the embrace of a close friend. Hugging them feels good because you know they care about you, and you them. Even more so, kissing a girlfriend, boyfriend; husband or wife also feels very good when you deeply love them and cherish your relationship with them. The love from God is the emotional aspect of these affections, only one-hundred times deeper. Furthermore, the experience of God’s love is spiritual—meaning—the connection is not limited only to the body and mind. While God doesn’t physically hug us (not yet), He loves us in our very souls… forgive me if that sounds cliche or dramatic. What I mean is, God’s love for you and me is so deep that it extends and expands far deeper than the electric signals running from the pores on the surfaces of our skin to our brain, alerting us when we experience the sensations of physical affection, and putting in place the chemicals and pheromones which enable us to feel the connection and build the chemistry of that relationship. That is all how human love works.
God’s love is deeper than that.
If our heart is center of our anatomy, and the part of humanity we connote to as the home of morality–then the soul is the essence of the heart. The soul cannot be found tangibly; the soul is the heart of a person’s existence. The heart may beat, and our body may sense its own physiological existence, but the soul is who we are when our heart beats. Without the soul, a person would be denuded of personality and character—absent of humanity altogether. The soul controls the heart, and the heart affects the soul. In this sense, if God resides in our hearts, and His love affects our souls, imagine how deeply we are designed to feel the love He extends to us. That humbling realization is incredible… at least, it was for me when the difference between human love and godly love became clear. God’s love bypasses all human love. When we try to fill our souls with human love, it never feels like enough. And when our hearts remain unfilled, we feel a lack of joy. I’ve learned, after becoming a Christian, that though we may feel a lack of joy in our hearts, God has always loves us as deeply as we can be loved. But unless someone introduces us to Christ–to God Himself–then we don’t find out how deeply we are loved, nor what that love is capable of doing for our lives. God’s love is what gives us purpose, and our reason to keep going. Without belief in God, joy becomes stripped of its definition and very foundation, undermined by our doubt in what was and is designed for us to live within and for.
Another sad truth about the misperception of the joy of God’s love is when we only hear about Him through the walls of church, where the image of God which gets created in our mind’s eye is limited to what we read about in the Bible, and what we’re told by the speaker—rather than what is learned by the relationship in our hearts and the connection to God in our souls. We cannot expect a relationship to be built with God if we only learn about Jesus and communicate with Him in church. Our relationship with Him must become a lifestyle in every aspect our lives if we are to experience joy in its fullest measure. True, authentic joy comes not from knowing God exists or knowing Jesus loves us— joy doesn’t come from knowing Jesus died and rose again to save us from an eternity away from Him—joy comes from receiving these gifts into our hearts and feeling the impact in our souls as we believe in and trust in these gifts as gifts, and not just knowledge to imbibe and lose sight of.
Knowledge could never save our souls. But relationship with God can, and it does. Let me give you an example.
Knowing where the key is that unlocks the door which leads to the outside of a trap isn’t what gets you out: taking the key, putting it into the lock, witnessing the key unhinge the lock on the door and experiencing the relief when the door opens, and then walking out into freedom— that gets you out. The love of Christ–the core of the walk of Christianity–does not come from knowing what Jesus did; like reading a study guide and memorizing the answers. Getting out of a joyless life (like a trap) requires us to use the key, not just know about it. Jesus is the key to a joy-full life, where nothing can defeat us but our doubt in ourselves, or losing faith in the power of Christ. When we putting Jesus face-to-face with our adversities, every door is unlocked and every trap is opened before our eyes. He is the answer to everything.
To reiterate this point, if you haven’t experienced the joy of Christ yet, joy cannot be experienced in the fullest measure it was meant to be experienced until you accept Jesus into your heart, unhinging yourself from what you know about Him, to what you experience to be true with Him. Knowledge might help create a mental picture, but believing in and using the correct tools is what provides a way out to freedom itself. Jesus is the key out of our traps, but we must apply Jesus to our hearts in order to get the traps to open and be able to walk out. How badly do you want to experience the freedom and joy of Jesus Christ?
That said, when you have friends who also believe in this, they shine the same truth about Jesus into your life. They will remind you of the key; that you need Jesus to get out of your problems, you need Jesus to heal from your pain, and you need Jesus to surrender to when you’re trying too hard to control your life and end up watching your whole world fall apart. Eventually you’ll realize, with humility, you never had control to begin with. Friends who trust in Christ remind us of this reality, and encourage us, with love, to turn back to Jesus, asking Him for help. They will be willing to pray for us and urge us to also pray to God in faith that the answer will come.
Friends who do not have Jesus will offer everything they can, and that is appreciated. When someone can’t redirect us back to the Source of joy and hope, however, they remind us, without realizing–or perhaps without believing–that out of our own volition, we can overcome anything on our own. Of course, as much as this sounds convenient and possibly encouraging, it is painfully untrue. Acting out of our own will and depending on our own strength will become completely exhausting. Humans aren’t meant to play God; when we do, the world falls down, and we come running back with fists in the air over why it’s so frustrating that life isn’t going our way. Life goes according to the way God allows it to. He won’t control us, but He commands us to depend on Him in order to know where we’re going, since He is the one clearing the path for our next step. Trying to skip ahead only leads to confusion and disappointment. Trusting in Him inspires authentic humility, and closeness to Jesus Christ. Concordantly, the more we trust in Christ, the less anxiety we feel; the less anxiety we feel, the easier it is for us to trust–once again–in Jesus. And so the tale of our lives can go, once we accept and receive in our hearts the promise of God’s love–Jesus–the Source of our joy in life.
How badly do you want to experience this joy? I would love to hear what you think of this concept, and where you are on your journey with regards to this right now. Please feel free to join in this discussion by posting in the comments below. Where are you with regards to your faith in the hope of Jesus as the key to joy in life? Perhaps you’ve never given yourself to Christ before, and it’s not too late to do that now. Or perhaps you don’t want to give yourself yet because you don’t feel ready. Maybe you could talk about that and explain what’s holding you back from faith in Him. I would love to hear where you are now, where you’d like to go, and why. There is no judgment here, only love and understanding. I hope to help you see that the key to all joy and hope is found in relationship to Jesus. There is no other way. I’ve tried—many have—it doesn’t work.
If you’d like to read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LancePrice2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please share this with anyone you think would benefit. I hope you will take my words into consideration, and that you will leave your thoughts in the comments below.
May God bless you today!!