Just as the peace of Christ is the antidote for the chain of fear, the joy of the Lord is the antidote for the chain of worry. Much like fear, worry is so often colored by this anxious age we live in. The list of things to worry about is almost endless. But into this milieu, the call of the New Testament is, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4).
Or, as Karl Barth has written, “It is astonishing how many references there are in the Old and New Testaments to delight, joy, bliss, exultation, merry-making, and rejoicing; and how emphatically these are demanded from the Book of Psalms to the Letter to the Philippians.” Yes, throughout the Scriptures we are urged to live joy-filled lives.
Our fundamental, foundational stance as a believer is to be one of joy. Our serious, melancholy pessimism should be the exception. Yes, those empathetic emotions are real. And there is a time for grief over our struggles; and those of our families, our communities, our churches, and our world. But underlying our concern is a bedrock of joy given to us by the Father.
Did you know that you have already been given the incredible gift of joy? It is not something you have to strive for. It is not something you have to work for. It is not something you have to earn. You already have it inside. How? Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). When you embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ, you were given the Holy Spirit to live inside you. You did not earn it; it is pure gift from God.
And by virtue of this gift – by virtue of His Spirit living inside you – you already possess all of the Spirit’s fruit. In the natural world, a fruit tree can only produce the fruit of its DNA. It cannot produce any other fruit. Likewise, you were ordained to produce the fruit of the new Spirit that lives inside and one of those fruits – already there by virtue of your spiritual DNA – is joy.
It may seem like a subtle distinction, but the key to experiencing that joy is to recognize it is already in there and then proceeding to unwrap it at every opportunity rather than seeing it as a character quality that we must strive to attain. It’s already in there!
Can I encourage you to throw off the chain of worry? There are many more aspects to breaking this chain in terms of our faith in God’s goodness, His sovereignty, His love, and so much more. But for today, our focus is on the joy that He plants inside. Rejoice in the gift of joy that He has given to you.
Is there a time to ponder the sobering reality of evil in the world? Yes, there is. But the underlying reality of a joy-filled life is a constant theme throughout the Scriptures. And it is a reality that has been beautifully summarized by English author G. K. Chesterton, “A person is fully human when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live.”