When asked what makes you joyful, you probably have a quick answer that actually describes what makes you happy. I know I do that. But if I think for a second about the difference between happiness and joy, I end up thinking much longer than a second. Because I remember that joy is something deeper and more soul-penetrating than happiness.
Happiness comes easily for me after a lazy Saturday morning and two cups of coffee that stay hot, a lunch with one of my best friends, movie night with my kids or a long dinner alone with my husband. But those things don’t require any work on my part, in fact, they all cater to my lethargy. Joy is different. It usually follows a period of struggle, or perseverance, of work.
The best illustration we have of joy in the midst of miserable, torturous work is that of Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross. In Hebrews 12:1,2 we read: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus. The pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In James 1:2-3 we read: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
When I recall the times in my life when I have sensed a deep, abiding joy, I acknowledge that they all came after a trial. Whether it was a difficult stretch in my marriage when I felt alone and unnoticed, a conflict in my family, the day in and day out humility of mothering babies and toddlers, moving to a new state or country where I was utterly unsupported or facing job loss and financial instability, there inevitably came a point where the darkness broke and the Lord guided me out of the trenches and onto smoother ground with warm and illuminating light, enabling me to see the people and things in my life for what they were–tremendous,
And the only response possible for me in those moments was gratitude
for His provision, which enabled me to experience true joy. In their podcast, “Is That Like a Thing?”, Crystal Yates, Magen Thurman, Becky Leach and
Emily Gentiles address this topic in Episode 3: Joy in the Work. Crystal, Becky, Magen and Emily are successful Christian recording artists and writers, wives, mothers and Bible teachers who discuss “the things everyone is thinking about, but maybe, never really saying.
Always from the perspective of God’s word and living as imperfect, faithful followers of Christ, they explore the realities of faith, the imperfections of family and home and the grace to make it another day.” I appreciated their humor and vulnerability as they shared how the Lord has worked intimately in their lives to cultivate joy. Crystal repeatedly draws us back to the connection between joy and gratitude—how it’s almost impossible to have one without the other when we see how undeserving we are of God’s provision.
Magen reminds us that enduring the work produces faithfulness, as we see our need for Jesus in every exhausting step of struggle or tedium. As
we humans tend to focus more on the end result of our work and not the process, Becky encourages us to see the blessing as the growth and sanctification God is doing with us through the work, not necessarily the earthly end result.
In the end, the group converged on a focal point, that kingdom success is far different from earthly success. Kingdom success is determined by eternal fruit produced for the glory of God alone, whereas earthly success is temporary and all about self-aggrandizement. It was encouraging for me to hear Biblically supported concepts of joy, gratitude, faithfulness,
perseverance, fruit, and Christ’s glory packaged in a relevant way in this podcast with women who are so relatable.
In modern language they conveyed the truth of what Jesus modeled for
us on the cross, encapsulated in Hebrews 12-: 1 and 2:
-that Jesus saw the fruit ahead of His sacrifice (the church) and the joy or the reward before him (fellowship and restoration with his Father).
-he endured the cross (did the work, suffered through)
-scorning its shame (without complaint and regardless of the optics)
-sat down at the right end of God (rested in the completion of Kingdom work)
Thank you ladies for being vulnerable enough to give us an ear to how our Lord is moving in your personal lives so that we can be encouraged as we walk in faith through the work He has planned in advance for us, persevering in faith and absorbing those reflective moments of joy or
knowing there is more waiting just around the corner.
Adrienne Gross is a writer living in North Carolina with her husband Bryan, an her three children. She is a lover of adventure, fitness, good food and good conversation with the people she loves.