– Sam Storms
God Enables You To Feel Joyful When It Feels Like There’s nothing To Be Joyful About
When I was in college, we had a history class where we talked about the early Christian church, and it was quite horrific. Christians were being sawed in half, being used as party lights, and being fed to lions. Really horrific stuff. And throughout it all, they were calm. They didn’t cry out in pain, they didn’t cry out to avoid the death sentence; they looked death in the eye and they had the courage to sing hymns and praises.
In the later part of the course, we discussed the Reformation when many Protestants were being burned at the stake. And instead of pleading for their lives and begging for mercy, they looked heavenwards and they sang praises to God while they burned.
As somebody who has worked with medical professionals before, I can tell you, one of the most painful ways to die is to burn. Seriously. You feel your skin blistering and popping, and the raw data overload on your senses is just really overwhelming. I cannot imagine somebody going through that experience. Many of the people that died for their faith found the inner peace and the inner calm to sing praises to God while they burned to a crisp… slowly.
I am relating this story because this blog post is about the concept of joy. We modern Christians have it easy. Many of us have adopted the common definition of joy. Joy is some happiness that you feel, and if something good happens to you, you feel this joy. You radiate this happiness. The reality as looked through the lenses of these early Christians and Christians during the Reformation is that real joy doesn’t come from outside of you.
Joy That Doesn’t Come From Outside
According to the book of Galatians, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, in the heart of a person that has been truly born again in Jesus, is joy. This joy is not the world’s kind of joy. It’s not like feeling happy because good things happen to you. This is the kind of joy that you have when Jesus lives in your heart. In other words, even if everything in your life is falling apart, when you have cancer, when your relatives are dying, when you’ve lost all your money, when all sorts of disaster are playing out, you still manage to find happiness and joy in your life. That’s the kind of joy the book of Galatians is talking about.
And this kind of joy doesn’t come from outside. It’s not the typical kind of joy that when something good happens, then you feel joyful. The problem with that kind of joy is that you’re really not in control. You’re basically waiting for good things to happen, then you feel the joy.
With Christian joy, it’s burning in your heart twenty-four seven, because of the Holy Spirit. It’s like a nuclear reactor that goes on and on without any input from the outside. That’s powerful stuff!
God Gives Us the Power to See the Joy in Everything
If we abide in Christ and make Him the real master of our lives, we can see joy in every second of our being. We can feel the joy of His companionship and His friendship in every moment. This is extremely important, because the Christian life is often a life of trials.
Life is not a cakewalk. There are always disappointments; there are always trials and challenges. By tapping in to this fruit of the spirit, we would be able to feel the presence of God, and that is the only thing that matters. Suffering will fade away, because if you are focused on the glory of God in your heart manifested in joy, suffering isn’t even in the equation.
This is why Sam Storms’ quote that joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, but is the presence of God, is so true. When people don’t have God in their hearts, it’s too easy to feel suffering. In fact, it’s too easy to feel any kind of discomfort, because there’s really no padding, there’s really no space between the slings and arrows of the world and their mortal bodies and sensitive hearts.
When God is present in your heart in the form of the Holy Spirit, and you have the fruit of the Spirit which is joy, suffering leaves the picture. The reality is that suffering looks way different under God’s light.