When we suffer trials and tribulations, we don’t feel joyous. In fact, we experience anything but joy. We may be in panic mode or simply a state of trying to survive. It is interesting to me that the Bible includes more than 500 references to joy. 500! Maybe God is trying to tell us something?
There is a significant difference between joy and happiness. How many times have we said we just want “happiness” for ourselves, our family, friends and those we love? I strongly believe happiness is not truly the best for us. What should our heart’s desire be? Joy!
Why joy? Because happiness is based on circumstance, and joy is based upon relationship. We are happy when our favorite teams win in sports. We also know there is a good chance they may lose the next time they play. We are happy over a salary raise until we see the taxes. Our emotions go up and down like a roller coaster.
With joy, we embrace a relationship with Jesus. Joy stands for “Jesus Over You.” When we love Jesus we want to have a relationship with Him. When we spend time with the Lord, He fills us with His presence, and we are filled with the joy no circumstance can change. This joy is the reason people who are imprisoned or being tortured can have incredible joy. Nothing can take that away.
Joy is a way of living. It is not a feeling, event or emotion. It is a state of being in love with Jesus. It is living and experiencing the Greatest Commandment given to us, “To love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.” To love with the love of God, with our whole being united with Him. In the state of joy, we can say “Abba, Father” and mean it. God becomes a loving Daddy to us!
The state of joy almost compels us to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation often and to attend daily Mass. When we experience Mass, the Scripture readings and liturgy prayers come alive. We truly participate in this heavenly banquet. Mass is not boring but alive with joy and love in a way we could scarcely conceive. We truly understand Nehemiah’s proclamation.
Nehemiah 8:10 “Rejoicing in the LORD is our strength.”
With joy, we are less likely to experience sadness, unhappiness, depression or anxiety—anything that keeps us apart from Jesus. Joy and love become the foundation of evangelization and our service to the Lord. We want to share our joy with God’s people.
Joy definitely leads to rejoicing! The word joy or rejoice is used 19 times in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In the fourth chapter, we are encouraged:
Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again, rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Many times, we don’t feel like rejoicing because we aren’t getting what we want in life. Perhaps our relationships are strained with our spouses, children, friends or co-workers. We might be struggling financially, physically or spiritually. We turn our eyes away from Jesus and begin to sink emotionally.
When and if that happens, it is important to repent and trust in Jesus. One way is to pray the rosary, saying “Jesus, I Trust In You” with each of the 50 beads. Begin praising the name of Jesus as our Rock, Fortress and Savior!
Let’s look at the word “rejoice” more carefully and apply it to our lives.
The “R” stands for relationship. We must strive to be in right relationship with God, communicating with Him as often as possible. We feel His gentle loving touch and listen to His messages. We surrender our lives to Jesus and love Him with unconditional love.
In this relationship with God, our prayer life is different. Rather than a series of petitions, our prayers are those of praise and thanksgiving. We trust in Him to supply our needs according to His glorious riches. We live the Scripture passage from Thessalonians:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
As joyful people, when we do encounter trials and adversity, we look at them differently. We let the words of the letter of James fill our hearts.
James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete.”
The “E” in rejoice stands for evangelization. When we are joyous, we want to share the love and saving grace of Jesus with everyone we meet! We are called and respond to the call to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, as Mark’s Gospel recounts:
Mark 16:15-18 “He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’”
With the joy of the Lord, we live the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit. In my over 40 years in the healing and evangelization ministry, the central ingredient for sharing Christ and healing is the love of Jesus, with joy of the Lord in my heart.
We receive joy when we share Christ with others. Our joy increases when we lay hands on the sick and see their joy as the Lord ministers to them, spiritually, emotionally and physically. Every day I share Jesus with others, I am filled with joy. Every day becomes a “great day” in the Lord!
The “J” stands for justice. When we have joy, we are moved to give back. Several years ago, I started an employment initiative. We meet weekly with those in transition and out of work, helping them with networking, resumes and interview skills. We try to connect them with other people who can hire them or help them find work. I also work closely with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society to give food and help with shelter when necessary. For me, justice is using the gifts and skills God has given me to give to or share with others. These rewarding efforts allow me to focus on others and not my own issues and problems.
The “O” in rejoice stands for only, the one and only. I am reminded of the movie City Slickers. In the film, the character “Curley” holds up one finger in reference to the most important thing. What is our “one thing?” The answer “Jesus” is not a slam dunk. What is getting in our way in putting Jesus first?
The “I” stands for intercession. When we intercede for people we are acting in the name of Jesus, who stands at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. Especially powerful is praying the rosary and interceding for another. Let God lead you to discover those for whom you should pray. When we talk to people who are struggling, pray for them immediately, just as you are speaking to them. God loves when we are His voice, mind and heart, and we pray for others!
In the word rejoice, “C” stands for community. When we are in community with loving people who know Jesus, we have joy, strength and protection. We experience the love of Christ. Join some type of prayer group, perhaps a small prayer-sharing or Divine Mercy group, a rosary gathering, an assembly with others, especially of the same sex—anything that puts you with other people who will support and strengthen your journey with the Lord.
The final “E” in rejoice stands for everlasting life. We know peace and joy when we understand we are destined to be with Jesus and our Father in heaven forever! As John states in the 14th chapter of his Gospel, Jesus has built a mansion for us in heaven beyond anything we can imagine. Yes, we have trials and suffering here on earth. Let’s keep our focus on Jesus. When we do, we remove the sting of the areas in our lives that weigh us down.
We all know life is difficult. When we strive for joy, our lives change for the better. Is it easy? We all know the answer to that. I believe if life was easy, without trials and tribulations, we wouldn’t receive the “crown of life” when we die. We wouldn’t hear the words of Jesus, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
My brother Bill and I have an exchange that goes like this: I ask him, “Why is life so hard?” He answers, “Because it is supposed to be.”
Jesus was very clear that we would endure challenges and trials. He also was clear that He is greater than the world or any problem we face, and that we will never be burdened with more than we can handle. At times, that seems hard to believe. But it is true because we are told in Scripture that it is true. I choose to believe it!
May the joy of the Lord fill your hearts and souls and those of your loved ones, now and forever!
Praise God! Now and forever!