Photo compliments of the internet and Candace Payne.
“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11)
There’s this woman, Candace Payne, who’s become this instant internet celebrity because of a video posted on the internet. I saw that first video. I appreciated it. And I’m not surprised by all that’s following. I like to appreciate the joy of little things, even little things like Chewbacca masks that talk like Chewie and have a mouthpiece that moves with your mouth. Her video made me laugh too. I’d be right there with her. But it wasn’t just about a Chewbacca mask. It was about having a kind of bad day and choosing joy instead. But her joy isn’t really in the mask. Her joy is in the Lord and all the things he places in her life. So, I’ve decided to look into the Biblical idea of joy. Because, like Candace, my sister in the Lord, I want to live in the joy of the Lord. I want others to see that special joy in me, despite my circumstances, and I want that supernatural joy to draw others to You, Lord.
Joy is a pretty important thing in Scripture. In Hebrew, when I did a search, I found at least 15 words and word variations used for joy. In Greek in the New Testament, I found 4 words used. When I divided the words between their meanings to study them, it filled 21 pages on my computer! Do I think joy is important for a believer to understand and walk in? Yes, I do. So I want to walk in it.
Simchah is one of those Hebrew words for joy used 83 times in Scripture. It means blithesomeness or glee. It envelopes “exceeding(-ly), gladness, joy (-fulness), mirth, pleasure, and rejoice (-ing). Instance after instance it’s used to describe the joy of the Lord. And that’s where it really works. But it can be twisted, like in Proverbs 21:17 which shares, “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man…” See, joy or pleasure can go astray. We can get addicted to joy and pleasure in the wrong things. Whenever that happens, tolerance ensues. And tolerance causes addiction. All the pleasures of the world have this way of not satisfying. There’s this joy in acquiring things, but then we always need to acquire more for that joy. When our joy is in sexual gratification, we need more for the same joy. When there is joy produced from the feeling from alcohol or drugs, we need more. When our joy is in our family and our family leaves to become adults and we’re left alone and joyless, what then? When our joy is in a good laugh and the laugh is finished, what then? They leave me empty and joyless or joy at best is something fleeting that I can only catch every now and then and is determined by my circumstances.
But if the joy is truly the joy of the Lord, we’ve found that one fulfilling addiction that will not lead to tolerance, because You, Lord, will always satisfy. When I am left alone or when my world seems to fall apart around me, then I don’t fall with it. I stretch more for You, Lord, and You draw closer to me. My pursuit isn’t about pleasure or joy. My pursuit is You. You are Joy. You are Pleasure. Every substitute is empty. When I pursue You, I find the divine in things I never expected to. Candace found God’s joy in a mask that took her mind off her “failure.” The other day, I found the divine in a limited edition print on my wall. And the fact is, we find the divine over and over again. Each time it’s new and different. Like Skip Moen said, “Tolerance never sets in because I never reach the point where my soul adjusts. The soul is always hungry for God but no amount of God’s grace will ever fill it.” You and I and Candace can choose our addictions. We can choose that which brings a “diminishing return” or “we can pursue the Creator, the One Who built us to absorb all He gives and never reach the saturation point.”
I can dance and sing songs of joy like the women when David struck down the Philistines, or when Solomon was anointed. I can be joyful like when all the mighty men joined David. It can be part of me like it was a part of the Levites function to sing and play music with one voice with joy to the Lord. I can shout for joy at a great event for the Lord like the people at the rebuilding of the temple. I can be joyful in keeping the Lord’s feasts and obeying Him or in dedicating the wall around Jerusalem. But all those things, though good, can be a wrong focus. Because I can start to worship a circumstance instead of the One who guides me through them.
David’s words show where His heart was. “You [God], have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” (Psalm 4:7) The joy doesn’t come from the circumstance, even if the circumstance is abundance. The joy has to come from knowing and experiencing You, God. Why? Because “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) And how do I get there? You do it when I start to see You for who You really are. “For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.” (Psalm 21:6) “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.” (Proverbs 1:28) It brings joy because the hope is in a Person and not an outcome. The hope is in a Person who will perform and accomplish all that He has promised to accomplish. He is the Joy. He is the Prize. And the one who believes is in Him.
In Isaiah, we read how joy and gladness can be taken away, how songs can stop being sung, how cheers disappear, the fruitfulness of a land is taken away, and no-one shouts for joy. It can be replaced with outcries, and joy can grow dark. Gladness can be banished. Do you know when that happens? When God is forsaken, when You are left out of the picture. But the good news is that “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy one of Israel.” (Isaiah 29:19) “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11) Think about it all. Think about Isaiah 55:12- “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Where do we go out from? We go out from the presence of the Lord. We are led forth in peace by the Lord. Everything around us, therefore, sees the influence of the Lord upon us. If the mountains and hills break forth into song and the trees clap their hands, what do you think of the people that live on those mountains and hills and under those trees? What will be their response to seeing the joy of the Lord in our lives that are spent dwelling in the presence of our living God?
You know what? Instead of being depressed or downcast or pouty or bitter; instead of hanging our heads in shame because our yoga pant size isn’t what it should be or because I’m misunderstood or because of my daily pain or the disappointment of something that’s not falling into place the way I wish it would, I can choose to walk in the joy of the Lord, in Your presence and dwell on the beauty of You. Then “Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.” (Isaiah 61:7)
I’m really glad for Candace. I totally understand where she’s coming from. She’s coming from reveling in the joy and presence of the Lord. And I can’t think of any better place to be that will always satisfy and that will never leave me feeling empty. No matter how bad my circumstances get, I’m taken back to Lamentations 3. “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Joy, if it evades us, it’s because we’ve been evading God. Got joy? If not, let us run to God in Christ Jesus. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) So, I pray with Paul for us, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)