Saying that life is difficult is as obvious as saying that water is wet. Everyone has troubles and no one is exempt.
Since the fall of Man, humanity has struggled to find meaning and purpose amidst trial and tribulation. God has responded with scripture, guiding us back to Himself and assuring us that those who belong to Him, are not alone. He guards and protects us through every storm and across every dark valley. As our divine companion He is the source of enduring joy.
Psalm 16:11 says: “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
The world may offer fleeting moments of happiness, but true unwavering joy is found only in God. It carries us through our most difficult times, when it is in fact at its very best. This may all seem odd, but the scriptures assure us that it is nevertheless so. The joy that God gives is made for trouble and knows just what to do with it.
What is joy?
When the Bible uses the word ‘joy’, what exactly does it mean in the context of the Christian faith? We typically associate the word with happiness because that is what most people around us mean by it. And while joy may include feelings of happiness, there is much more to it than that.
The biblical concept of joy is not a fleeting emotion or a temporary state of mind. It is not at the whim of circumstances. It is instead a deep and abiding sense of contentment and satisfaction coming directly from our relationship with God. That’s what joy is. It is a deep sense of contentment and satisfaction that comes from God.
In Galatians 5:22 joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is something produced within us as we walk in obedience to God and experience His love and grace. Times of sorrow and sadness cannot dispel it, for it flows entirely from our spiritual relationship with God. Joy from God is an enduring gift that keeps on giving, even when life is trying to take everything away.
How do we cultivate joy in our lives?
Understanding that joy is a profound and enduring sense of contentment rooted in our relationship with God, leads us to ask: how can we cultivate and nurture it in our lives?
Authored by King David, Psalm 25 provides some answers.
“To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust, Do not let me be ashamed; Do not let my enemies exult over me.” (25:1)
We don’t know what it was exactly that David was facing, but he mentions enemies, suggesting conflict. Despite his fears, David trusted in God as his only hope and this led to the joy that only God can provide.
Joy comes from trusting in God’s character.
Joy is anchored in the trustworthiness of God who always keeps his promises. He is eternally good and unfailing in love. And while present in all places at once, He is especially at our side when things get tough. It is therefore when we put our trust in Him, that we experience a deep and abiding joy, which like the peace of God – passes all understanding.
In verses 4 and 5, David reveals yet another path to joy. He says, “Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.”
David acknowledges that the journey to joy also involves seeking God’s wisdom and guidance. He desires not only to trust God but to know His ways and learn His truths.
Joy comes from seeking God’s guidance.
When the storms of life hit, it is important for us to seek God’s guidance. In stormy seas, even experienced sailors might never find their way back home without a compass. In a similar way, God guides us through His word and helps us to understand it when we go to him in prayer.
When we turn to Him for guidance, we acknowledge our need for His help and direction. We humble ourselves before Him, admitting that we cannot navigate alone. The burden of figuring everything out is lifted when we trust God’s infinite wisdom to guide us. Seeking His guidance deepens our relationship with Him, leading to a better understanding and a deeper sense of joy and fulfillment in Him. This is something David understood. Joy comes from seeking and following God’s guidance in our lives.
Joy comes from remembering God’s forgiveness
We see another essential aspect of finding true joy in verse 7, where David wrote:
“Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; According to Your lovingkindness remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.”
After seeking God’s direction, David acknowledged his sins and sought God’s forgiveness. God does not intend for us to live with a guilty conscience or to despair when we sin. He is eager to forgive – when we let go of sin and ask to be cleansed. And He does this for the sake of his own name. Forgiveness is the gift that rekindles joy, as it did so long ago in David.
Joy comes from resting in God’s protection.
Verse 15 says, “My eyes are continually toward the Lord, For He will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.”
David trusted that God would pluck his feet out of the net and deliver him from his enemies. Trusting in God’s eternal protection brings true joy. We can experience joy, knowing we have a God who watches over and protects us.
We can rest assured that no matter what we face in this life, God is with us and watching over us. This does not mean that we will never be harmed or crushed by the troubles of this world. Trouble is one thing that Jesus Himself guaranteed that we would have if we follow him (John 16) But it also means that God’s protection applies to us in the ultimate sense. If we belong to Him, He safeguards our souls and provides the strength to endure whatever comes our way. When we put our trust in God’s protection, we can have confidence that nothing can separate us from His love or His presence in our lives (Rom 8:38-39). We can face our trouble with hope and perseverance, knowing that God is working all things for our good, even if it doesn’t seem that way in the moment or if it seems more than we can bear.
We can rest in Him.
This is where our joy comes from—it comes from knowing that we have a God who protects us and watches over us, and nothing can separate us from Him. Isn’t that a wonderful assurance that we can hold onto in the midst of suffering? This is what David knew, and this is what we need to know. David understood what he had in God.
Consider the final verses of this Psalm:
“Look upon my enemies, for they are many, And they hate me with violent hatred. Guard my soul and deliver me; Do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You. Redeem Israel, O God, Out of all his troubles.”
This is ultimately where David found his joy in the midst of all that was against him—despite all his suffering and difficulty, he found it by seeking refuge in God.
David understood that no matter how many enemies he had or how violently they hated him, God was greater than them all. He trusted that God would preserve and protect, redeem and restore. So he waited upon his God who had never failed…and God did not disappoint.
Joy comes from finding refuge in God.
We tend not to look for refuge until we are ‘down and out’. But even then, it is never too late, for there is never a time when God is not near or a place beyond his reach. Taking refuge in the Lord before we are lost and struggling makes the best sense. But even those who wait may do so before it is too late. God provides the rest that we need – rest for our souls. He will faithfully preserve and guide us through even the darkest times. And as He does, may we patiently wait for His redemption, knowing that He is working all things for our good, bringing us into a place of eternal joy and rest.