Just when I thought that maybe, just maybe, we were showing some signs of returning to “normal,” fresh news hits our community and our world reminding me that things will probably never be the same. There seems to be more division and disappointment wherever you look, and there are no signs of things changing anytime soon.
When talking with people, I sense many are being challenged to find authentic joy in the midst of all the news we process daily. But wait, do we “find” joy? Or another way to think about it is, can our joy be taken away? My initial response is it seems like joy can be taken away, like many other things that were taken away over the past year or two.
But then I reflect on Romans 5:3-5: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
When I read this, I see that hope is the first critical component that leads to authentic lasting joy. So what am I putting my hope in? Is my hope in the things of this world? In politics, education, a career, money, sports, success or other people? Or is my hope in the lasting hope taught in the Bible, which is the promises from God that sustain and carry each believer through life? As stated in 1 Peter 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
This is a hope that changes us, and it is a hope that changes the world. It is the hope of the gospel message. Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”
The second component to having authentic lasting joy found in Romans 5:5 is having God’s love fill your heart through the very Spirit of God. Ephesians 1:13 says, “And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.” This verse promises us that the Spirit of God will dwell in us if we truly believe in and follow Jesus.
Yet many struggle to follow, hear or sense the Holy Spirit’s leadership in their lives once they choose to surrender to Jesus. Why is this? This is a frustration I hear over and over again: “I really want to hear from the Holy Spirit, I really want to follow his guidance. I just cannot hear his voice.”
The truth is, not hearing the Holy Spirit limits our capacity for God’s love to fill our hearts and in return our ability to remain joyful.
The remedy is simple in concept but challenging to accomplish in practice. To clearly hear God’s voice above the chaos of this world, we need to study and know God’s word and his promises. We need to have his word saturate our hearts and our minds. When God’s word is flowing in us, foolishness and wisdom become so much clearer. Knowing God’s promises and having God’s word abundantly in your life lead to lasting joy in a tumultuous world.
Jim LaCroix is Grace Church’s Children & Student Ministries pastor. He also leads Young Life in Salida. When not working, LaCroix enjoys golfing, fishing, camping and just getting out in the sunshine with his wife, Nancy. They also love spending quality time with their two daughters, Sarah and Rebekah.