Where’s The Joy?

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(Grace: Age 5) It was Friday evening at the Gill’s, and all was not well. We were preparing to go out for dinner together, but it had been a long day and everyone was “needy.” I needed to “veg-out,” Doug needed some TLC, Gracie needed some focused attention— and none of us could see with compassion what the people we loved most needed. We were each so caught up in our own selfish needs that a great bickering storm erupted; with me and Doug picking at each other while Gracie’s tugs were being drowned out. She finally yelled “SHUT UP!” to which her father chided her with: “Young lady, do not speak to your mother that way!” Her little lip quivered. Daddy picked her up and with a gentle hug gave her a softer admonishment. When he put her down again she planted both hands firmly in the air and said: “Okay, everybody take a deep breath! You are a child of God! Let’s be joyful today!” In an instant Doug and I felt convicted, but in that same instant the Holy Spirit descended upon us and the entire demeanor of the three Gills was transformed to JOY— in an instant!

I could not help but feel like this moment in our home was a foretaste of our future hope. It was what I call a “candy moment”— you know, those hard candies called “Now and Later?” We got a sweet taste now, of what we will experience in fullness later– when the Lord will right every wrong, make straight every crooked place, wipe away every tear and make all things new— including us! In this moment, we were brought into the presence of the Lord, and made new.

When Grace said: “Take a deep breath!” It was like “the trumpet sounding” to wake us up— “raising the dead” so to speak (for there is no doubt in that moment we were all “dead” in our transgressions.) That deep breath allowed us to step out of the vicious cycle of our selfish sin (death) and breathe in God’s spirit (Life!) to be transformed.

thM244D1RDHer admonishing truth: “You are a child of God!” put square into our faces the reality we’d neglected. We had forgotten our true identity.  Galatians tells us we have a choice- we can remember who we are and live like sons and daughters of the One True King, or we can forget who we are and go back to being “slaves” of the world! 

You are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves…. But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (Galatians 4:7-9)

When the Gills were wrapped up in their own selfish needs they had all forgotten who they were and to whom they belonged. You see, we had reverted to the slavery of our worldly selfishness. The calamity was causing our home and our relationships to fall apart, and the joy was gone.  But when Gracie said to us: “You are a child of God! Let’s be joyful today!” We were all renewed in an instant! We found ourselves with the Lord set before us, and our JOY was restored.

But the question remains: How had we gotten to that ugly place of decay in our home? Where was the joy? I have been parked on Psalm 16 for several weeks now. I believe it holds the answer to that question. My friend Christie and I are doing a study on “JOY” and the Lord clearly led us to this Psalm. In our study we looked at different Bible translations and were struck by three different translations of verse 2. These differing interpretations reveal to me the lack of depth in the English language as compared to the ancient Hebrew. Examining Psalm 16.2all three translations gave me a fullness of understanding I may not have otherwise seen.

Look with me for a moment…

I say to God, “Be my Lord!” Without you, nothing makes sense. (MSG)

I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing…. (NIV)

O my soul, you have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You.”(NKJ)

Do you see what I see? I see that… 

God is the Source of being in touch with Reality: Apart from Jesus we cannot be in touch with reality. Nothing “makes sense.”  When we are “without” the Lord we cannot see or understand clearly. You see, I cannot find true joy (joy that sustains regardless of my good or ill circumstances) unless I am with Him.

God is the Source of Every Good Thing: The physical possessions we own, the home we have, the work we do, the relationships we are in, and the ambiance created by those “things” is only good if you treasure Jesus and have Him above all else. Verse 5 of Psalm 16 makes this ever clear: “Lord you are my portion and my cup of blessing.” (CSB; my emphasis) Apart from the Lord all of these “things” lose their goodness and can become destructive idols. You see, the Lord is the giver of every good thing, but they can only remain “good” sources of joy for me if I stay with Him.

God is the Source of My personal goodness; my “good” character: When we are apart from the Lord Jesus, we cannot be “good.” You see, I cannot find any true joy in my own goodness, because apart from the Lord, it does not exist. The Lord tells us himself: “There is none good but God.” (Matthew 19:17) Logically speaking then, for us to have any goodness in ourselves, we must get it from Him, and we can only get it from Him when we are with Him.

The rest of Psalm 16 is a beautiful picture of the JOY available to God’s children and how they can receive it:

I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  (Psalm 16: 8-11, NIV)

joy5When you intentionally place yourself in Jesus’s presence (set Him before you) you have sight of reality.  You can see His provision & protection. Psalm 16 reveals to us the unshakable security, the life giving wisdom, the connection with reality and the source of everything good that is found only in one place….

So Where’s the Joy? Psalm 16 is very clear. I particularly love the CSB translation: In Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11 CSB)

There is only one place where we can be filled with true Joy! There is only one place where joy flows abundantly and eternally— In the presence of the Lord Jesus.  Joy is the Lord’s. To get any true joy you need to be with Him. Stay in His presence. If you struggle with experiencing true joy, I will ask you this tough question: Where are you? Are you intentionally placing yourself in the presence of the Lord every day? Go into His presence and be changed in an instant… 

“Take a deep breath. You are a child of God… Be joyful today!”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve January 21, 2014 at 8:44 pm

This really has hit home and is inspiring! I think we need to borrow Gracie for a day.

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Leona Choy January 22, 2014 at 3:36 pm

“…and a little child shall lead them…” Good one, Gracie. You were listening to God.

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Christie February 10, 2014 at 9:24 pm

This post needs the “share on facebook” button 🙂
So true, that our sinful selfishness robs us of the joy God would have us live in and pour out on others!

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